By George Capsis
I hate graffiti and perhaps that is why WestView News has done several front page articles on the subject.
With the pandemic and the closing of offices we now have an ever-ready young crowd that poured into Washington Square during the Black Lives Matter demonstrations and then marched down Broadway, spray cans in hand and even smashed shop windows.
Right here on Bleecker Street, somebody sprayed “shit on god “ on a restaurant’s plywood cover window and they did a 40-foot nonsense “TEXAS” on the back of a building facing 7th Avenue.
I called DCPI, the police press office, to see if I could discover a person in charge of the fight against graffiti but never found him or her (the mostly young officers who staff DCPI got to know me and my persistence but nobody ever said “I am in charge”). But then on March 3rd, NYPD Police Commissioner Dermot Shea issued a press release that the New York Police Department was about to do a city-wide “Spring Clean Up: Combating Graffiti.” Oh wow —I called and they sent me a video press release showing the new Police Chief of Department Rodney Harrison, speaking in front of a gaggle of police commanders all the way down to the Police Athletic League to demonstrate, at last, an all-out collective war on graffiti.
But wait, this is very important—they were not just going to hang cameras on lamp posts to catch the spray can artists in the wee hours of dawn, but they were inviting citizens to report new spray can murals and then join with them (the police) to roll paint over them—and make them disappear.
Yes, you got that right. You and I can now join with the police to not just report these visual crimes, or try vainly to find the perpetrators who might be hunkered down in Brooklyn, but to eliminate their crimes with a generous gift of paint from Home Depot or your local store.
The program invites us to collectively bury the graffiti crimes behind a block of freshly painted gleaming enamel. All volunteers will also get a t-shirt, from the Chief of Community Affairs.
Now this is unique in the history of policing: we do not seek to apprehend the offender (too expensive) but rather to bury their crime.
WESTVIEW GETS A FIRST LOOK
At about this time photographer Paul Vlachos sent me an email identifying, with contained outrage, a series of graffiti explosions around his apartment house in the Village and we invited him to take the historic photos of the very first graffiti ‘internment’.
The block of fresh paint is visually assertive but it is much too expensive to remove the graffiti and restore the decades old patina of the historic buildings. But I am willing to accept the large patches of graffiti shrouds in the hope it will make the next graffiti artist hesitate, knowing that his work will not make its way to a museum when the building is demolished.
But there is a better way in the case of old patina of the historic buildings: paint remover, similar to what is used to remove paint from the stone monument at Washington Park Arch. Yes, it is more expensive and delicate to apply, but with community support, the work of the police could be made even more effective.
The NYPD has established a new email address, Graffiti@nypd.org, that will be monitored around the clock by a dedicated police officer, to donate or offer support. A graffiti coordinating officer will distribute tips from the public to the precincts, Police Service Areas and Transit Districts throughout New York City, where commanders will oversee clean-up and education efforts in close collaboration with community partners. Preventative ideas will also be shared, such as increasing the overall lighting of an area or installing motion-sensor lights or sprinklers to discourage vandals—particularly in elevated or out-of-reach spaces. Hate graffiti—or graffiti that includes offensive slogans or symbols—will be prioritized for cleanup.
For our 6th Precinct station on West 10th Street, please contact Evrim Can, Community Affairs at 212-741-4826, or Graffiti Officer Pete Plessa. Captain Stephen Spatero is the Commanding Officer of the 6th Precinct.