By ANNIE KARNI
Hey vandals, can you spell ERASE? Almost $3 million in federal stimulus cash will let the city wipe clean 10 million square feet of graffiti.
The influx of $2.9 million on July 1 will enable the city’s team of 23 custom-built vans, rigged with spray-painting and pressure-washing equipment, to operate at full capacity for the first time.
“Graffiti gives a neighborhood the appearance of being unsafe,” said Craig Small, assistant vice president of the city’s Economic Development Corp., which oversees the program. It also reduces property values and discourages businesses from opening, according to Small.
On a recent day, two men worked in tandem cleaning a wall along a commercial corridor on Knickerbocker Avenue in Bushwick, Brooklyn, one of the most tagged neighborhoods in the city.
“A lot of it is related to gang activity,” said Small.
In 15 minutes, a coat of paint was blasted onto the 360-square-foot wall with an airless paint sprayer and then the truck moved on to its next destination.
The 34-person graffiti-removal team is currently funded by the city and hits the streets daily to respond to complaints phoned in to 311.
The stimulus funds will increase the size of the graffiti-removal team by 40 percent, an EDC spokeswoman said.
The Police Department is also working with the city, planning stakeouts around freshly cleaned walls to catch vandals.