The councilman has once again committed to funding City Solve, a private graffiti-removal business that targets routinely vandalized areas, primarily businesses strips, throughout Avella’s district.
This will be the third year that City Solve has monitored and removed graffiti throughout the 19th District. Crews generally work at night when the gates to businesses are closed, and the service is free to commercial, as well as residential, property owners.
“If a business owner has to hire a private company to remove graffiti, it could cost them between $500 and $1,000,” said Avella last week at the intersection of Willets Point Boulevard and 150th Street, where a particularly vulgar piece of graffiti was about to be removed. “That is a lot of money for a mom-and-pop operation that is struggling to get by.”
The offensive graffiti was on the security gate of a Laundromat owned and operated by Kathy Vassallo for the past 15 years. She said that having City Solve work in the area has been a huge help, and that she hasn’t had to remove graffiti herself for the past three years.
“And they remove it almost as quickly as it goes up,” she said.
That, says Avella, is key, and the councilman speaks from experience. Over a decade ago, Avella began organizing volunteers to remove graffiti, and he held last week’s press conference in front of a red wall that he personally paints himself.
“When I first started, this wall was completely covered in graffiti, but now I only have to paint it approximately twice a year,” said the councilman. “If you remove the graffiti immediately and don’t give the vandals a chance to see their work, they will eventually stop.”
Bruce Pienky, who owns City Solve, agrees.
“Initially, there was a lot of new graffiti each month,” said Pienky. “And don’t get me wrong, there is still plenty of graffiti for us to clean, but over the years we have worn down their resolve.”
Pienky said that he provides similar services in about 15 different neighborhoods. He and a crew drive around in a specially equipped truck with equipment that sprays on fast-drying paint. Once Pienky has added a base coat, he can remove subsequent vandalism with the same color, resulting in a seamless cover-up.
“It’s not just about removing the graffiti, but making it look like it never had graffiti in the first place,” said Pienky, explaining that goal is hard to achieve with volunteers, rollers, and mismatched buckets of paint.
“It’s like a vacant lot with a small patch of dirt,” added Avella. “Once you get that small patch, all of a sudden the entire lot becomes a dumping ground.”
After Avella and Pienky’s remarks, a member of City Solve’s crew took to removing the graffiti from Vassallo’s security gate. The whole process took barely a minute.
“That would have taken an hour-and-a-half to do by hand,” said Pienky.