Thursday, October 8, 2009

Council Might Strengthen City’s Graffiti Removal Law

The City Council is considering an amendment to the current graffiti removal law that would make it faster and easier for officials to have commercial and residential eyesores repainted without approval from the building owner.

Council members voted overwhelmingly last month to introduce the bill, which strengthens the powers of the decade-old Graffiti Free NYC program by reducing the amount of red tape required before the city can remove the graffiti. The bill, sponsored by Councilwoman Gale Brewer, has the backing of local members Eric Ulrich (R- Ozone Park) and Elizabeth Crowley (D- Middle Village).

Under the new law, a building owner will receive a notice of removal from the city once the structure has been identified for cleanup. The owner then has thirty five days to inform the city that they will have the graffiti removed themselves or that they want it to remain on the building. If the owner doesn’t respond, the city is allowed to remove the graffiti. In addition, the bill also subjects owners to fines of up to $300 if they don’t respond to the notice and provide the city with the necessary access to the property.

“We need to use every tool possible to fight graffiti vandalism. This bill is a step in the right direction,” said Ulrich, who has also allocated discretionary funds for a separate graffiti cleanup program in trouble spots within the 32nd District. “Now, this bill lets the city remove graffiti without the waiver requirement, and will greatly increase the efficiency of the Graffiti Free NYC program going forward.”

Crowley, who has joined with Brewer, Speaker Christine Quinn (D-Manhattan) and Peter Vallone (D-Astoria) as a sponsor of the legislation, said the key now is getting word out about the removal program to local property owners. “In the past getting graffiti removed has been a difficult process hindered by too many obstacles,” said Crowley. “This legislation gets rid of those obstacles and will allow for much of the city’s graffiti to be cleared from our build- ings.”

Since it was launched in 1999, the Graffiti Free NYC program has cleaned graffiti from more than 27,000 sites, and officials hope that number will increase due to the amend- ment. Residents can submit requests for cleanups by calling 311 or online at

The majority of the repainted properties are in Manhattan, and Crowley is hoping to increase the program’s effectiveness in Queens. “So far, the city’s graffiti removal program has been weighted to projects in Manhattan. I look forward to working with community members and building owners in the neighborhoods I represent to take advantage of Graffiti Free NYC,” she said.

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