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Graffiti plagues businesses and homes

November 22, 2010

by Jackie Abukhalaf

Frustrated business owners, landlords and residents continue to be victimized by graffiti in the Pine Hills neighborhood.

The latest targets on Madison Avenue include the  CVS Pharmacy, Dirty Harry’s Uptown Laundromat and The College of Saint Rose, and over on Ontario Street,  Paesan’s Pizza.  Several homes and a significant number of street signs also have  been vandalized.

Local citizens are not happy with the ongoing graffiti problem and believe that its presence is not only unsightly but triggers other criminal behavior that hurts  the neighborhood.

”It is really affronting to see this on buildings, fire hydrants and street posts,” said Todd Hunsinger, president of the

Located on the eastern side of Dirty Harry’s Uptown Laundromat on Madison Avenue (Jackie Abukhalaf)

Pine Hills Neighborhood Association.  “There are so many people who take pride in their property and the community…when you walk down the street and see fresh ‘markings’ it hits a nerve. It serves as a reminder of larger issues of sporadic crime and violence.”

The current procedure in place for graffiti victims is to call the Albany Department of General Services to file a claim. The department then contacts the Albany Police Department. which sends out an officer to take a photo of the graffiti, to verify whether or not it is gang-related or connected to other criminal activity.

Once a victim reports the crime to General Services, an officer and a detective from the Forensics Unit take the report to the site to see if the graffiti matches any other reported crimes, according to Det. Jim Miller of the Albany Police Department.  After police have checked out the scene, the city sends an employee to clean up the markings which in some cases can take up to several weeks.

The property owner chooses how they would like the graffiti eliminated.  If they clean it up on their own they incur the cost, but if they leave it up to the department, it can take several weeks for the free service, according to the Department of General Services.  Most property owners choose to clean up the graffiti on their own.  The cost for paint and supplies varies according to the size of the markings.

A campus maintenance facility at The College of Saint Rose is a regular graffiti target, according to Ed Pratt, a maintenance worker for the college. He told the Pine Hills blog he sees vandalism weekly, primarily at the building on the east end of a parking lot near Yates Street and the Center for Communications and Interactive Media.

Located on the eastern wall of a College of Saint Rose maintenance facility in the Center for Communication and Interactive Media parking lot (Jackie Abukhalaf)

“We clean it up, they tag it. They love to see a fresh wall.  They do it in the middle of the night and early morning,” Pratt said. “They tag it and we clean it up, that’s all we can do.”

Business owners aren’t the only ones distressed from the string of markings – local landlords suffer too.  Absar Bhatti, a property owner who has rental units on Quail Street and New Scotland Avenue, has been victimized four to six times each year on one multi-family building alone–a building he has owned since 2006.

“In my opinion, it is not worth calling the cops or the Department of General Services since I don’t have the time to wait for the cops, and DGS takes forever to come and paint over it,” Bhatti said.  “Graffiti should be taken care of even without a call from the property owner.  The police are nice enough, but it takes forever to file the complaint.  People who do graffiti are criminals and if they want to ‘enhance’ a building with their tags, they should buy them first.”

On a positive note, at least one local citizen has taken this misfortune and made it into an opportunity.  Dom

Located in the eastern stairwell of CVS Pharmacy on Madison Avenue (Jackie Abukhalaf)

Colafati, who lives near South Main Avenue, paints over neighborhood graffiti and attributes his actions to the broken windows theory.  Neighborhoods that aren’t kept up slip when the momentum to make improvements is lost.

According to Ann Erling, Colafati’s wife, “If people see broken windows it will give a perception that people don’t care about their neighborhood and the vandalism will continue.”   Erling said her husband, on his own time, buys matching paint to cover graffiti on city street lamps, residential homes and various businesses.  “DGS does a fine job but the problem is the response isn’t immediate,” said Erling.  “It could take up to two weeks to a month, which is why Dom feel compelled to fix it.”

The Department of General Services deals with ongoing urban decay caused by graffiti and responds and cleans more than 2,000 locations each year.  Anyone victimized by graffiti may call the Albany Department of General Services at 434-2489.   -30-


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