Most of the area north of Metropolitan Avenue and east of Fresh Pond Road has been relatively untouched by graffiti, while other parts of Community Board 5 have been suffering for years. Now the problem is moving to Middle Village and Maspeth, and people don’t know what to do. Typically, they contact Councilman Dennis Gallagher. He and his staff have been telling his constituents to contact Greater Ridgewood Restoration Corporation (GRRC).

Greater Ridgewood Restoration Corporation (GRRC) has been running an anti-graffiti program since 1992. In that time we have removed graffiti at over 2,000 sites. We have actively publicized our services for years – we even had an article published in the “Juniper Berry” years ago – but people in Middle Village still are not aware of us.

GRRC paints over graffiti where necessary, such as garage doors and already-painted surfaces. However, we have been the only non-profit organization in the area with the ability to power wash graffiti from brick and concrete buildings. This is much better for bricks than painting. Now, we have a hot water, high-pressure machine, which is even quicker and more effective at removing graffiti.

GRRC doesn’t clean any building unless the owner gives us permission to do so. Lately, more and more Middle Village owners are asking us to clean their buildings. There is apparently a new, serious graffiti problem in the area. The requests are coming not just from the Metropolitan Avenue commercial strip where we have cleaned for years, but also from residential areas north of Metropolitan Avenue.

Just last week, the police closed off part of Eliot Avenue so GRRC could clean the house at Mount Olivet Cemetery. It’s hard to imagine how the graffitists managed to deface this property without being run down. But most graffiti is done at 2 or 3 in the morning when law-abiding people are sound asleep. We have requests for cleaning at Furmanville and Dry Harbor Road and from people on community drives off Eliot Avenue.

The program is not free – we charge $75 a day for power washing and $25 for painting. BUT, we come back three times more at no charge to remove recurrences of graffiti; all you have to do is call us.

If you need graffiti removed, call us and we will send you a letter explaining the service and a form that you must sign giving us permission to remove graffiti from your building. Once we receive the permission slip, we will place your name on the list to be cleaned. It usually takes a few weeks before we can get to you, but we will get to you.

Councilman Thomas Ognibene was a big supporter of GRRC’s when he was in office, and Councilman Gallagher has continued that tradition. He, like Tom before him, has arranged for funding for GRRC and has personally persuaded owners to agree to have their buildings cleaned. These people tend to be absentee owners, and have actually told Mr. Gallagher and his staff that they don’t care because they don’t live there and don’t have to see it.

That attitude is pretty common among absentee owners. GRRC doesn’t understand it, because a building covered with graffiti is obviously worth less than a non-vandalized building. It also lowers property values around it because the neighborhood looks crime-ridden and out of control.

Pressure from neighbors of buildings whose owners refuse to clean them is usually the best way to get cooperation. Customers can tell storeowners (who usually don’t own the building) that they won’t shop at a place that is covered with graffiti. Tell them to advise their landlords there is a low-cost way for them to get rid of this mess. Advise them to ask their landlords to sign GRRC’s waiver.

Mike Nelson and Marty Golden, Council members from Brooklyn, have introduced a resolution urging the State Legislature to upgrade making graffiti to a felony. That may be one solution. Another is to urge the judiciary to give meaningful penalties to convicted graffitists, including restitution. We need to make it plain that the public does not think graffiti is art or an asset to the neighborhood. It is vandalism and should be treated as such.

If you need graffiti removed, call GRRC at 718-366-8721 and ask us to send you information.