Graffiti has become an increasingly prevalent problem throughout the Bronx, but the Westchester Square community will no longer tolerate its destruction anymore.
On Tuesday, December 30, Sandi Lusk, of the Westchester Square Improvement Organization, and John Bonizio, of the Westchester Square Merchants Association, gathered to take the first step by removing the graffiti from the Footlocker, located at 34 Westchester Square, along the back wall on Benson Street.
They are hoping this will show the criminals, which are corrupting these businesses and driving customers and residents away from the area, that it will not be tolerated.
“We are going to do this now, and in a couple of days they will try to put it back,” said Lusk. “It’s a vicious cycle and it keeps getting worse and worse, so you really need to keep up with it.”
The merchants’ association, with assistance from the WSIO, hopes to soon establish a graffiti clean-up program that will remove all the graffiti from the area. This will begin with an initial removal and will be costly at first, but provide much needed relief in the long run. Following this, fliers and information will be distributed asking people to report any sightings to the merchants’ association, and the graffiti will be immediately removed.
“It just can’t stay like this, it affects the whole community,” said Bonizio. “When people see the graffiti here they treat the area like a garbage can, and that is not something we are going to tolerate in Westchester Square.”
Bonizio believes that the recent exhibit featured at Hostos Community College, entitled Graffiti: Spirit of an Age @ 40×10, will negatively influence some of the Bronx youth to continue to graffiti buildings.
“Its unfortunate in today’s society that the hoodlums who do this defacing should be glamorized as artists,” said Bonizio. “These kids destroy city property and cost the city millions. These artists should come back and paint a mural to show the young that it can be constructive and not destructive.”
The merchants’ association also hopes to add surveillance cameras in select locations throughout Westchester Square to prevent further vandalism and other crimes on the strip.
“We already got the verbal consent to install surveillance cameras, now we are trying to get the funds allocated,” said Bonizio. “We intend to wire from Lehman High School down the entire length of the strip and some areas behind so we know who is doing what and can prosecute.”
Many residents complain of graffiti not only on the businesses, but also residential buildings and homes, and historic buildings such as the Huntington Free Library, located 9 Westchester Square, a Bronx landmark (see page 22).
“In this economy with all the people losing their jobs, businesses don’t have the money to continuously clean up, and things only seem to be getting worse,” said Bonizio.