Graffiti cleanup makes Westchester Square shine

Graffiti Free NYC workers place biodegradable chemical over graffiti and use pressurized water to remove the paint and preserve the buildings in Westchester Square.

Westchester Square continues its revitalization, as New York City agencies stepped in to assist with the much-needed graffiti clean up on Wednesday, October 22 at 9 a.m.

Councilman James Vacca had been receiving calls and concerns from locals in the area regarding the Square’s deterioration. Vacca contacted the Mayor’s Office for help.

“The Square is especially susceptible because of so many young people that come by here,” said Vacca.  “We want to keep this Square as graffiti-free as possible.”

Vacca’s office sent in 21 permission slips from Westchester Square businesses seeking graffiti removal from their property.  Property owners, or authorized representatives, must fill out this waiver, available online through nyc.gov, in order for the city to take action at no cost to the owner.

“As every local resident and every local shopper knows, graffiti can make a safe, vibrant neighborhood look like something else altogether,” noted Vacca.  “If we want Westchester Square to attract new shoppers and new stores, we need to make sure it looks clean and inviting.”

The Community Affairs Unit, an agency that serves as the direct link between the Mayor’s office and designated communities throughout the five boroughs, is geared to improving neighborhood problems and occurrences to help improve the quality of life.  Once contacted by Vacca, the CAU took immediate action.

One of the many programs offered under the CAU, is Graffiti Free NYC.  This program operates 23 trucks, with new technology for the graffiti removal. 

“I am grateful to the Mayor’s Office for making their trucks available to my community,” noted Vacca, “and I Look forward to addressing other areas of my district in the future.”

The program not only paints over the graffiti, but for areas needing to be preserved, such as brick buildings, a biodegradable chemical is thoroughly brushed over the graffiti site.  After 10 minutes, the trucks are brought in to spray a regulated temperature and pressurized water to completely remove all graffiti, without damage to the building.

“Today we are going to hit it with hot water at about 200 degrees,” said Carlos Lassalle, field director of Graffiti Free NYC, “we can’t use too much pressure or it will damage the brick.  If it was a painted wall we just paint right over it, but with the natural brick we want to remove it as naturally as possible.”

The graffiti clean up began in the lot adjacent to Pisacano Eye Surgery, at 2590 Frisby Avenue, a shared lot where the walls were covered in both new and old graffiti.

“I am so delighted for this, the graffiti obviously makes a terrible impression on our patients and the neighborhood.  It is a sign of deterioration and discourages people,” said Evelyn Bay, practice administrator at Pisacano Eye Surgery.  “We try to remain vigilant about our building, this is a shared lot and the graffiti on it has become a quality of life issue.”

The clean up continued throughout the day, serving as just one part of the grander idea to continue improvement and revitalization of this area.

“The Westchester Square Merchants Association has been pretty active for the last year,” said John Bonizio, president of the association.  “We are in the process of establishing a business improvement district. By this time next year the Westchester Square community will be a different place, and this clean up is part of it.”

Anyone wishing to report graffiti is urged to call 311 and keep track of each complaint number.

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