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Ridgewood non-profit seeks more public funding

Dave Ortiz, one of the drivers for the Greater Ridgewood Restoration Corporation, helps clean graffiti. The corporation has lost its state funding and will have to rely on donations from the public. Photo courtesy the GRRC
By Rebecca Henely

The Greater Ridgewood Restoration Corp., which has spent 18 years cleaning up graffiti around southwest Queens, began asking the community last week to help them raise funds to make up what they had lost in the member items cut out of the state budget this fiscal year.

“It makes a difference in the neighborhood, I can tell you,” said Paul Kerzner, president of the corporation.

Kerzner said the program was based off one created by the Jackson Heights Beautification Group, in which a cleaner spread on a wall removes graffiti after being shot with water at high pressure.

“I said, ‘Gee, this is terrific,’” Kerzner said when he heard about the process.

The corporation made its program a bit more extensive, Kerzner said. While the Jackson Heights Beautification Group uses volunteers and works on weekends, the corporation has worked in cooperation with the Queens district attorney’s office’s Second Chance Program and has participants in that program clean graffiti under supervision weekdays from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. April to November. The corporation also uses a machine to heat the water, which is pumped from the fire hydrants, when it is sprayed.

The neighborhoods the corporation works in include Ridgewood, Glendale, Liberty Park, Maspeth, Middle Village, Forest Hills and Bushwick in Brooklyn.

“We remove 90 percent of the graffiti that’s out there and keep it out,” Kerzner said.

While the corporation charges fees, the program costs approximately $60,000 a year. Charges include insurance for the two vans the group uses, which is $3,000 each, gas, maintenance and kerosene to generate the hot water. The supervisors are also paid at a rate of $10 an hour, Kerzner said. In the past, state Assembly and state Senate members have funded this through member items, but they are now asking for the community to donate.

Kerzner said the corporation had its state funding cut once in the past, although he admits people have less disposable income now than they did then.

“The only people that are happy about this are the graffiti vandals,” he said.

This issue is so important, Kerzner said, because derelict properties give criminals the impression crime is allowed in the community.

“That’s why we’re so intent on removing graffiti immediately. That crime will beget other crimes,” he said.

Those interested can donate at ridgewoodrestoration.org or call the corporation’s graffiti hotline at 718-366-8721.

Reach reporter Rebecca Henely by e-mail at rhenely@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4564.

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