2009-07-31 / Top Stories

City Council Announces New Steps In Removal Of Graffiti

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and the New York City Council announced new legislation to make it easier for the City to clean property defaced by graffiti and shift responsibility for cleanups from individual property owners to the City. The Mayor also announced new steps the Mayor's Office of Operations has implemented to streamline the process of locating graffiti and increase the resources available to clean it. This has resulted in nearly double the number of sites cleaned so far this year, compared to the same period 2007, even with an unusually rainy June that temporarily slowed progress. The Mayor also announced a new paint donation from Sherwin Williams to the Mayor's Paint Program, which provides community groups with paint and supplies to clean their neighborhoods. The Mayor was joined by Community Affairs Commissioner Nazli Parvizi, Economic Development Corporation President Seth W. Pinsky, Department of Sanitation First Deputy Commissioner Michael A. Bimonte, Mayor's Office of Operations Director Jeff Kay, State Assemblywoman Catherine Nolan, City Council Members Gale Brewer, Peter Vallone Jr., Eric Gioia and Leroy Comrie, Queens Borough President Helen Marshall, Sherwin Williams New York Metro District Manager Paul Szulecki, and Sunnyside Shines Business Improvement District Executive Director Alyssa Bonilla.

"Graffiti is a pernicious and pervasive quality of life problem but our City agencies have made great strides in removing it from our neighborhoods," said Mayor Bloomberg. "We're cleaning more graffiti faster than ever before and working with the City Council, we are going to introduce legislation to make it easier and more efficient to continue doing that. City government, working with property owners and community residents will keep our neighborhoods beautiful and our City safer, cleaner and more livable."

"This new system will improve the efficiency of the City's graffiti abatement efforts," said Speaker Quinn. "By making it easier for property owners to participate in the City's free graffiti removal program, this legislation will also make it easier for the City to clean more sites in less time. I want to thank both Council Member Brewer and the Mayor for working so diligently on this legislation, as well as Council Member Vallone for his tireless efforts on the issue."

The City's Graffiti Free NYC is a partnership between the Mayor's Community Affairs Unit, the Economic Development Corporation and the Department of Sanitation that offers free graffiti removal services to property owners who sign a waiver requesting removal. Since 2007, Graffiti Free NYC has significantly increased the number of graffiti sites cleaned by extending the Graffiti cleaning season. At the beginning of the cleaning season in April 2008, the backlog for requests was 3,260. Due to the extended cleaning season and other reforms the Bloomberg Administration has implemented, there were only 1,000 requests on file in April 2009. To date that number has been further reduced to 400 requests, despite the rainy month of June.

In the first six months of 2008, the City removed graffiti from 3,478 sites. So far in 2009, the program has removed graffiti at 3,891 sites totaling an estimated of 2.5 million square feet. In addition, more than 727,800 square feet of graffiti were removed by the Parks Department and almost 2,759,500 square feet of graffiti were cleaned off of streets, bridges and highways by the Department of Transportation - bringing the running total to 6 million square feet of graffiti removed by City agencies to date in 2009. In total last year, Graffiti Free NYC removed graffiti from a record 8,613 sites throughout the five boroughs.

The launch of the Street Conditions Observation Unit or SCOUT program, which since its inception in 2007 has traveled every block in New York City every month, reporting conditions that negatively impact quality of life directly to 311, has resulted in a 60 percent increase in graffiti identification. SCOUT operators discover graffiti before it's called into 311 by a member of the public, and use GPS equipped hand held devices to automatically report conditions to 311.

In response to these increased graffiti identifications, Deputy Mayor for Operations Ed Skyler asked the Mayor's Office of Operations to lead a multi-agency effort to address the increase in reports by making the cleaning process easier and more efficient. These reforms include making waiver forms available on the City's website www.nyc.gov so requests can be automatically transmitted to the cleaning crews, securing ten new graffiti powerwash trucks with federal funds (for a total of 27), creating more efficient routes for the trucks and centralizing accountability in one agency, the Department of Sanitation. As part of the centralization, a new database was created within the Department of Sanitation to track waivers and graffiti cleanup.

"Whether it's a community board, a block association or just a few neighbors getting together, every New Yorker has the power to make an impact in their community," said Commissioner Parvizi. "By working with our many community partners, the Mayor's Community Affairs Unit is able to keep our neighborhoods graffiti free and ensure that our city remains the greatest place to live, work and visit."

"New York City's streets are now the cleanest they've been in nearly 35 years," said Sanitation Commissioner John J. Doherty. "But one wall covered by illegal graffiti might send a different message to New Yorkers and visitors alike. The Sanitation Department is pleased to be a part of the hard-working Graffiti Free NYC team that toils each and every day to rid our great city of the spoils of graffiti vandals."

"Since its inception, Graffiti-Free NYC has removed graffiti covering more than 170 million square feet of New York City's buildings," said NYCEDC President Seth W. Pinsky. "Eliminating blight from our neighborhoods and improving quality of life for all New Yorkers is vital to attracting and retaining our City's greatest resource, our talented and motivated workforce, making it good economic development policy."

The Bloomberg Administration and the City Council are now finalizing legislation to further streamline the graffiti cleaning process by empowering the City to clean more graffiti and easing the burden on property owners. Currently, property owners, who are often victims of graffiti vandalism, are required to address graffiti on their property or face fines. Rather than requiring property owners to 'opt in' to City cleanups, they will now only be required to 'opt out' from automatic cleaning by City agencies. This would give property owners the option of choosing to keep any graffiti they consider artwork by notifying the City, while expediting repair of vandalism. The bill is expected to be introduced shortly.

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