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Councilman slams graffiti marketing

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At a news conference last week outside a bodega on 153rd Street in Jamaica, the councilman blasted Arizona Tea Company for promoting its "All City NRG" drink with graffiti-style designs and what he contends is a pro-gang attitude. Vallone said he was alerted to the drink, selling for $2 a can in grocery stores, by the Police Department, which has been experiencing a surge in vandalism arrests in recent years."Graffiti is on the rise again and the reason behind it is because so many corporations and so many companies are glorifying this," he said.The councilman said he was more disgusted with the fact that Arizona chose the name " all city," which is slang for a graffiti vandal who has tagged property in all five boroughs. In response to the promotion, Vallone wrote a letter to the Ohio offices of the soft drink company three weeks ago urging it to pull the drink off store shelves."What's next? Will they sell a drink called pickpocket, pickup or carjack?" he asked.A spokeswoman for Arizona Tea Company said the energy drink is not meant to endorse criminal activities and the company has no plans to retire the beverage."We don't promote graffiti. Graffiti is an art form used worldwide," said spokeswoman Francie Patton.Graffiti arrests in the city rose from 1,237 in 2003 to 2,962 in 2006, according to Vallone. Of those arrested in 2006, 78 percent were under 21.The energy drink has already angered city grocery store owners who have been victims of vandalism, according to Fernando Mateo, the president of Hispanics Across America."It sends the message that it's okay to dirty what we clean up. There are a lot of products out there that can be sold and this is not doing the right thing," he said.Jamaica bodega store owner Rigberto Madrid said he cleaned out his shop of all shipments of "All City" not only because he was disgusted by its packaging, but also because his customers have been turned off by the drink."The cans look very filthy. None of my customers have bought it and no one in the community wants it," he said.Reach reporter Ivan Pereira by e-mail at ipereira@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 146.

Updated 6:57 pm, October 10, 2011
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