Greater Ridgewood group cleared away graffiti in ‘03

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The GRRC released its end-of-year report for 2003 last week, detailing a busy year the group had in its efforts to erase the work of graffiti vandals.

GRRC crews cleaned 258 graffiti sites, most of them on commercial property but some on residences, in Ridgewood last year, according to the report.

"We cleaned later in the season than ever before, cleaned more sites, got a new van, lost an old one and bought a new pressure washer," said program coordinator Peggy O' Kane about the civic's work in 2003. "Quite a lot for just one year."

O'Kane said the GRRC began its clean-up efforts in Ridgewood in April and, using laborers provided by the Lincoln Correctional Facility and with the help of a van donated to the civic by Stephen Soliawaroch Funeral Home, removed graffiti from 63 sites.

In September, Richard Harris of the city Probation Department assigned community service workers to assist the GRRC and four additional work release inmates from Lincoln Correctional Facility were added, resulting in cleanups of 56 graffiti-laden sites in Ridgewood.

But the GRRC crew suffered a casualty in September - its van.

"The van had to be junked. It was so old that parts could no longer be obtained," said GRRC Director Angela Mirabile.

But the crew has since purchased a new, larger van that Mirabile said will enable GRRC to start the 2004 clean-up season with the ability to field two crews.

The GRRC cleaned 51 sites in October despite losing the inmates from the prison work release program. O'Kane said the community service personnel from the Probation Department were a boon to their efforts even though their participation is sporadic.

"The problem with community service personnel is that they usually have jobs and cannot come to GRRC every day," O'Kane said. "But we were grateful to have them and hope Mr. Harris will again send us people next year."

Another 48 sites were cleaned up in November and December, bringing the total number of sites cleaned in Ridgewood in 2003 to 258.

O'Kane said Ridgewood is the most graffiti-ridden neighborhood within the Community Board 5 area, but other areas such as Maspeth and Middle Village are also targets for the spray-painting vandals.

In Maspeth last year, 55 sites were cleaned, three times the number that were cleaned in the previous year, O'Kane said.

"I expect we will get a lot of calls from Glendale because of the taggers who were recently caught vandalizing from 67th to 79th street," O' Kane said about the outlook for this year.

Two week ago, police arrested three 14-year-olds who allegedly went on a graffiti-spraying spree on Myrtle Avenue in Glendale. The vandals broke into two second-floor apartments at 78-05 Myrtle Ave. and spray painted tags on nearly every wall in about eight rooms of the two apartments, police said.

"I was shocked," said Chuck Sansone, the owner of the apartments. "It's pretty disturbing."

GRRC President Paul Kerzner said the group's clean-up efforts are made possible with support from Queens legislators, neighborhood business owners, police in the 104th Precinct, and counselors at Lincoln Correctional Facility and the Probation Department.

"Without them and several local banks like Ridgewood Savings, Maspeth Federal, Independence and Citigroup, the graffiti program could not function," Kerzner said.

The GRRC also benefits from financial donations by individuals and organizations, Kerzner said.

If you have a building to be cleaned or want to help GRRC, call 718-366-8721.

Reach Reporter Tom Nicholson by e-mail at or by calling 718-229-0300, Ext. 157.

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