The new turf battle heating up in western Queens is over who has control of the walls in its neighborhoods.
Community activists and elected officials are working to clean up the graffiti and the gangs who create it.
“We want to let them know that the people in the community are involved,” said community activist and Assembly candidate Francisco Moya. “We will take the community back wall by wall.”
Moya organized a six-point graffiti cleanup plan targeting gang signs in Corona. He cites fighting gang violence as a focus of his campaign for the Assembly seat, which is now open because Jose Peralta won a Special Election to replace the ousted State Senator Hiram Monserrate.
The now State Senator Jose Peralta said he tried to tackle the same issue when he represented the area in the Assembly. He said removing graffiti is important because gangs use it to communicate with each other and warn other gangs to stay off their turf.
“It happens in cycle,” Peralta said. “We managed to deter it for a while then they come back. It is because of the Roosevelt Avenue corridor.”
The graffiti signs are from gangs like the Latin Kings and MS-13, a violent gang of mostly Central Americans.
“These gangs are really the more violent ones that are picking up steam,” Moya said. “People who live in the community have a right to live without fear.”
Moya wants to increase funding for the Gang Crimes unit in Queens, increase the amount of lighting on streets where violence is up and increase the number of street corner cameras and foot patrols.
“If you have a presence, there won’t be opportunities for gangs to rise up,” Moya said.
Moya also proposed measures including building a community center in Corona and creating a youth mentoring program to keep kids busy and out of gangs.
City Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer, the Sunnyside Chamber of Commerce and CitySolve also launched a $30,000 anti-graffiti campaign for District 26, which includes Woodside, Sunnyside, Long Island City, Astoria, and Maspeth, that will last until June 2011.
The program provides residents with a hotline and an email address to report graffiti and request free clean-up services. As complaints are received, teams of graffiti removal experts will be dispatched throughout the district to remove the vandalism.
“Graffiti vandalism cannot and will not be tolerated in our communities,” said Council Member Van Bramer. “If you see something, please say something by calling our hotline or emailing us.”
To report graffiti conditions in District 26, please call 718-383-9566 ext. 3 or email VanBramerFightsGraffiti@gmail.com. For any other areas, please call 3-1-1.