Graffiti a growing problem for SoHo store owners

Vandals have been targeting storefronts and buildings with more and more graffiti in SoHo, leaving local shop owners frustrated.

Jack Applegate manages Georges Berges Gallery on W. Broadway near Houston St. and started noticing more graffiti after the opportunistic looting that followed last summer's Black Lives Matter marches.

"Four businesses on this block had their windows broken down," Applegate said. "We were lucky that we had metal that comes down. I think that's the only thing that saved us. "

For a business like an art gallery, reliant on its large front windows to lure in passers-by (especially after the last pandemic year of minimal foot traffic), Applegate says obscuring that view with spray paint can devastate a business until it gets said paint removed.

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"There's a couple of places in the area where it looks like [the business] takes the tags off [and] the next week they come back and spray it again, over and over and over again," Applegate said.

Across the street from Georges Berges, Stephen Masullo runs the wine and liquor store his father started more than six decades ago. Stephen said he hadn't noticed more SoHo graffiti than usual but also admitted, under his definition for a lot of taggings he'd filed away memories of this city during the 1970s when graffiti was everywhere. 

"It is a sign of neglect," Masullo said, "a sign of things out of hand. Quality of life is very important."

In his daily briefing Thursday, Mayor Bill de Blasio promised a thorough cleaning of tagged surfaces around the city later this summer when the city’s Cleanup Corps dispatches the 10,000 workers it plans to hire.

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"You're going to see a big impact from the Cleanup Corps," De Blasio said. "They're going to be out there. They're hiring up as we speak."

The NYPD told FOX 5 NY its first precinct removed SoHo graffiti in both April and May, as part of a department initiative in response to fielding more than 6,000 graffiti complaints in 2020.

"To be honest," Applegate said, "I do like graffiti artists in general, but if it's just tags or random swatches, it doesn't actually add to anything."