By Alexander Dworkowitz
For 34 years, Mary Anderson has shopped and eaten in the stores and restaurants on 162nd Street in Flushing.
But recently the president of the East Flushing Civic Association has been bothered by the growing amount of graffiti on the commercial strip, a problem that has never been worse, she said.
“This used to be an immaculate, clean community,” she said.
Community leaders hope, however, that the trend will soon change.
Anderson joined Councilman John Liu (D-Flushing) and Debra Markell, the Queens director of the mayor’s community assistance unit, Tuesday to announce a city campaign to target graffiti on the short commercial stretch. They spoke in front of a tag-covered wall of the Franconia Pharmacy at 45-02 162nd St.
The city is asking business owners on the span of 162nd Street from Northern Boulevard to 46th Avenue to sign consent forms allowing the Department of Sanitation to clean up the properties.
The city is also giving away paint to the business owners, so that they can take care of the graffiti themselves.
“The business owners are getting a very good service for free,” Liu said. “We are giving the businesses the benefit of the doubt here, that they want to get rid of the graffiti.”
Anderson, however, said many of the store owners were reluctant to make efforts to clean up the strip.
“Most of the store owners around here are not residents of this area, so they may not care,” she said.
Several members of Asians for Social Activism, a group of students at Stuyvesant High School, appeared at the news conference to offer their help.
Most of the group’s members live in Queens, while several make their home in Flushing. The teenagers, who have helped clean graffiti from Main Street in the past, said they were willing to do so again.
But while students and the city offered to help paint over the tags, whether or not the area is cleaned of graffiti is ultimately up to the business owners, Liu said.
After the news conference, Clara Restrepo, who runs the Franconia Pharmacy with her husband, agreed to sign the consent form.
Restrepo said she had contacted private companies to clean up the graffiti, which has been on the outer wall of her store for months, but found the charges too high. She doubted the graffiti hurt her business since it does not appear near the entrance to the store.
If the city does not come to clean the wall in the near future, Restrepo said they would paint it over themselves.
“I’ll have my husband do it,” she said, “whatever needs to be done.”
Liu said the business owners must be committed to cleaning the graffiti even if it reappeared.
“It’s like owning a house,” Liu said. “When something needs to be fixed, you fix it. But that doesn’t mean it won’t break again.”
Reach reporter Alexander Dworkowitz by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 718-229-0300 Ext. 141.