Volume 17 • Issue 21 | October 15 - 21, 2004

Mixed reviews as city covers some Tribeca graffiti

By Hemmy So

The Mayor’s Community Assistance Unit has just finished painting over the graffiti on roll-down gates on stores on Chambers, Warren and Church Sts.

Although many area storeowners appreciated the new paint job, some expressed surprise upon seeing their freshly painted gates. The C.A.U. had not informed them of the anti-graffiti project.

Eddid Hamra, who runs Chambers Jewelry, was upset that no one informed him about the project. “I don’t like it. I couldn’t even recognize the store. They should have asked us before painting,” he said.

The job covered Warren and Chambers Sts. between Broadway and Church Sts. and nearby blocks on Church.

First Deputy Commissioner of the C.A.U., Tom Curitore, said that affected storeowners and tenants should have received notice of the painting.

Established in 1995 as part of Mayoral Executive Order No. 24, the Mayor’ Anti-Graffiti Task Force works around the five boroughs to rid the city of unwanted graffiti. Many paint requests originate through 311, while others are taken informally. After cleaning a few gates on Church St., for example, the graffiti-cleaning workforce were asked by neighboring businesses to also clean their gates, Curitore said.

“We’ve been doing this project since 1995,” said C.A.U. coordinator Ray Carrero. “The fact that there is graffiti on roll-down gates, it makes it difficult to not address it, especially if you work in the City Hall area. It’s a whole issue of quality of life.”

Storeowners worry, however, that the anti-graffiti project is only a temporary solution.

Peter Gunasekara, manager of Samantha Video on Chambers St., said that he had painted over graffiti on the store’s roll-down gate about seven months ago, only to have it reappear. Because graffiti artists work at night and the store closes at 7:30 p.m., Gunasekara said he was not around to stop the graffiti.

Fountain Pen Hospital owner Terry Wiederlight sees new graffiti at least every six months. The City’s painting will help the graffiti problem but won’t cure it, he said.

In fact, graffiti’s phoenix-like quality has deterred some storeowners from painting gates in the first place. Yun Kim painted the gate valance in front of his store Motown Gifts but never tackled the whole gate. “I didn’t paint it because it would take too much time,” he said in Korean. “I would always have to paint it, even for just a little [graffiti] sign.”

Rick Landman, a nearby resident, disagreed, partly from experience. Ten years ago Landman took his own roller brush to cover 38 roll-down gates along Chambers St.

“It worked – the gates I had done dark brown weren’t painted. Then this year, kids painted,” he said. But Landman remains confident in the Mayor’s Anti-Graffiti Task Force. “The kids will realize someone has taken care of this and will go somewhere else.”

From a distance, the cleaned-up roll-down gates add a touch of uniformity to these three streets, which house businesses as diverse as discount drugstores, jewelry stores and ethnic eateries. Kim complains, however, that an up-close inspection reveals a lackluster job by the city.

Because city workers failed to clean the gates before painting them, dust and dirt remained trapped under the new paint, creating a bumpy surface and a tendency for paint to chip off, Kim said.

Many store owners and passersby haven’t even noticed the graffiti or lack thereof. Because roll-down gates come down only after a store is closed, most people don’t see the graffiti during the day.

Real estate broker Eric Pozniak, who used to work in that area, noticed the graffiti but accepted it as part of the neighborhood. “It adds character,” he said.

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