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Neighbor to Neighbor: Community prepares for war against graffiti

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Those of us who were around when it was at its worst in the '80s and '90s, when every inch of every subway car, platform, or tunnel was completely covered with scribbled vandalism, most of us found nary a redeeming quality in it. The damage done to public and private spaces cost vast sums of money to clean up, to say nothing of the amount of time that volunteers and others spent in the eradication process.It should also be noted that the graffiti vandals delighted in flaunting the law and danger. Many of them dared deeds in subway tunnels and off bridges that even cost them the ultimate price - death. And yet, death, jail, fines, community service, nothing seems to discourage the new graffiti vandals or taggers.New York City, under former Mayor Rudy Giuliani and present Mayor Michael Bloomberg, along with the help of an army of dedicated volunteers, have done a remarkable job of cleaning up the mess. It is still not complete, however. So now, with the coming of spring, the war against graffiti will have to begin again in earnest, especially since over the years gang graffiti has emerged as an added challenge and problem.In view of all of the above, I was unpleasantly surprised to find an article on the arts page of the March 1 Long Island edition of another paper advertising a Brooklyn gallery exhibit of "art" done by some of the "most influential and respected groups of the graffiti movement."Now I am not unappreciative of art. In fact, I have studied art and enjoy going to many exhibits. But I do not appreciate art that is uninvited in public or private places. I am absolutely against illegal things and people who do them. I can only hope that the works that are being displayed and the people who cost the taxpayers of this city so much are not still part of that illegal history.I say that especially since that exhibit was said to have been made possible, in part, by Bedford Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation, New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, New York State Council on the Arts, New York Community Trust, Greenpoint Community Development Corporation, Axe Houghton, Bloomberg LLP and Carnegie Corporation.There are so very many talented people and groups who are looking for, need and could contribute beneficially to their communities by performing legal artistic, creative work, I wonder if funding will miraculously appear for those people who have always chosen to ply their talents honestly.There are, of course, differing views about almost every subject. I have heard some very strong rumors that there are still a lot of people in Queens who want our communities to be neat, clean, and respectful of the law. Graffiti clean-up crews are already lining up to get permit slips signed by property owners to gather the necessary paint, brushes, rollers, drop cloths, pans and hand cleaners.There are, of course, a lot of other interesting or relaxing things those folks would rather be doing, but as long as there are graffiti vandals despoiling our spaces, law enforcement and paint-over groups will have to go after them, one way or another. We can't afford to be discouraged because the elimination of graffiti will probably never be complete. It has been around for way too long for that.One account I received from the Bureau of Justice Assistance stated that "over 1,000 inscriptions are on the walls at Delphi in Greece, where for centuries the devotees of Apollo came to consult his Oracle. Many of these graffiti are official - decrees, deeds liberating slaves, or hymns. But many are personal, identifying the graffitist as a poet, grammarian, orator, or astronomer." Further on they said "in North America, the Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona contains thousands of petroglyphs, or rock drawings. Their age is impossible to determine, but the area was occupied intermittently from about A.D. 500 to A.D. 1400."But, as the saying goes, "Quitters never win, and winners never quit." So anti-graffiti folks, get ready and set to go. Win anti-graffiti 2005!

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