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Whitestone residents fight graffiti taggers

Rotondi is sick of the cycle he has witnessed on Francis Lewis Boulevard in North Flushing and Whitestone.

It seems that no matter how much effort he, his neighbors, community leaders and businesses put into eliminating street scrawl, it keeps showing up again.

"Who is responsible for this? These (Department of) Sanitation supervisors drive around in these cars, they don't see this?" he asked while pointing out tags, or graffiti signatures, on Francis Lewis Boulevard and the Cross Island Parkway this week. "It's just too big of an area for three or four people. It's just too big."

A resident of North Flushing who grew up in another part of the community, he said he has seen neighborhoods deteriorate due to quality-of-life concerns and does not want that to happen where he lives.

"I could lose this whole battle, for all I know, but I don't think so," he said.

Over the past few months, Rotondi and a few other concerned citizens have taken to the streets to repaint some of the eyesores that deface stores' outer walls as well as pull out weeds in the Francis Lewis Boulevard median malls. They dedicate their own hours and resources to their efforts, except for the times when they work with Councilman Tony Avella (D-Bayside).

One of Rotondi's comrades, Kathy Bryant, said at times it feels as though their efforts are in vain.

"It's not really improving, either. The graffiti is back on the walls," Bryant, a member of the local grassroots clean-up crew, said. "If you can't find (the graffiti artists), you can't do anything to them."

Rotondi has been in touch with Avella in order to coordinate some of the cleanups. But Rotondi is still frustrated. At one of the mall clean-up locations, bags of litter have sat for months without a Department of Sanitation pickup.

The Sanitation Department could not be reached for comment.

Rotondi said he relies on the businesses to help in the effort. Many of them maintain the malls and paint over the graffiti. On some stores, such as New Leaf Chinese Food, spray paint covered a wall that Rotondi said had been repainted four times since the spring.

"Every single time we paint it in the morning, the next day it is up again," said Maria Yip, an owner of New Leaf Chinese Food on Francis Lewis Boulevard. She said police have come out to patrol the area several times, but that it has not changed anything.

"When you watch (for) them," she said of the graffiti artists, "they don't show up."

An officer at the 109th Precinct said the 111th Precinct in Bayside has a graffiti task force. Volunteers join the 109th Precinct to clean graffiti once a month, after which officers patrol the neighborhoods where spray paint signatures have already been erased.

Tags such as "TDB," and "EC Crew" appeared the most frequently in the area that Rotondi was keeping watch on Francis Lewis Boulevard between 35th Avenue and the Cross Island Expressway.

"Maybe it's just too big of a job, but I don't believe that," Rotondi said. "The LIE is a big turnpike and they take care of it. They paint those walls like crazy."

Reach reporter Cynthia Koons by e-mail at news@timesledger.com or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 141.

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