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Woodside non-profit gets $15K for graffiti removal

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A 30-year-old Woodside nonprofit group will soon be able to afford a few more hands to scrub spray paint off the community's walls, officials said Monday.

U.S. Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-Jackson Heights) announced that Woodside on the Move will receive $15,000 in federal funding to expand its graffiti clean-up program.

"The best way to stop it is to remove it quickly so that they don't get the satisfaction of seeing it up for a while," Crowley said. "It's a constant battle."

So far this year, the 108th Precinct, which covers Woodside, Sunnyside and Long Island City, has received 130 complaints about graffiti. Officers have made 55 graffiti arrests and stopped more than 120 people believed to be in the process of creating graffiti, a police source said.

The precinct has seen 165 cleanups in 2008 through various programs and organizations, the source said.

Woodside on the Move already receives funding from city officials like City Councilman Eric Gioia (D-Sunnyside) and state leaders like Assemblyman Ivan Lafayette (D-Jackson Heights).

Crowley, who grew up in Woodside, said graffiti is an on-again/off-again problem in the neighborhood. Heather Strafer, Woodside on the Move's director of graffiti cleanup and concerts, said the problem reached a peak 12 years ago.

"Woodside was horrendous," she said. "Everything that didn't move was covered with graffiti."

The graffiti clean-up program, which began in 1981, employs 12 local youths who wash walls, paint over gang graffiti and sometimes create elaborate murals. With the funding, that number could double.

"We hope to extend our service to at least 100 more homes, business and walls," said Rosa Reyes, executive director of Woodside on the Move, noting the program has cleaned 200 different locations between the summer of 2007 and now.

"But it's more like 400, counting repeat visits," she said.

Strafer said the group has spent the last few years convincing apartment building owners to call them as soon as graffiti shows up on their property.

"The value of property in this area has gone up tremendously," said Lafayette, whose district includes Woodside. "The few people who own these houses are much more careful about keeping the outside clean."

Woodside on the Move was founded in 1978. Its other services include park beautification and cultural events.

Reach reporter Jeremy Walsh by e-mail at jwalsh@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 154.

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