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Long IslandCrime

Graffiti in Suffolk communities targeted

A New York assemblyman Wednesday pledged to "virtually eliminate" gang tags and other graffiti in four Suffolk communities with a yearlong effort to wipe out markings residents say drive down property values and encourage gang culture.

Assemb. Phil Ramos (D-Brentwood) called the anti-graffiti campaign to begin this month in Brentwood, Central Islip, Bay Shore and Islandia the largest such effort ever waged in Long Island.

"Graffiti is unsightly and it's like a growing cancer," Ramos told Newsday yesterday. "Besides the psychological effect of this negativity, there is a fiscal impact and I think residents are ready to see something done about it."

The plan to catalog and remove or cover graffiti on hundreds of buildings and fences has already begun with an inventory in 17 designated "graffiti free zones" in high-traffic areas.

After an initial removal, contracted workers will return monthly to those zones with paint and power washers, Ramos said. In areas outside those zones, workers will respond to locations residents leave on a new hotline or e-mail address, within two weeks.

The project, funded by a $40,000 member item secured in Albany in recent weeks, will be administered by the Long Island Urban League. The initial sweep is expected to begin next week and will take about a month to complete, said Bruce Pienkny of Brooklyn-based CitySolve, which has been hired to do the cleanup. Of the four surveyed communities, Pienkny said Brentwood was by far the worst. "We've worked in every neighborhood of the city and I was surprised by the volume there," he said. "It's terrible."

A series of gang-related attacks in Brentwood and Central Islip, responsible for nine deaths last year and five since January, has energized residents, said Lenny Tucker, executive director of Brentwood Residents Against Violence Everyday, or BRAVE, which is also collecting donated paint to cover graffiti.

The Sixth Assembly District graffiti removal hotline is 631-316-8565; the e-mail address is graffitiremoval6ad@gmail.com.

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