Tag…You’re It! How to Remove Graffiti—and Keep it Off

While nowhere near as prevalent as it was in the 1980s (when it seemed as if one couldn’t find a clean wall in the city), graffiti has never completely disappeared from New York...or any metro area, for that matter. It seems to have become an acceptable part of urban life and a unique art form to some.

According to an analysis of 311 hotline data by amNewYork, graffiti complaints were up 16% for the 12-month period from November 1, 2013 to October 31, 2014, rising to 15,539 (from 13,366) across the city.

“When you ask people on the street about graffiti, they say ‘what graffiti?’ ” says Ed Talmo of Enviro-Northeast Sales Corporation, a distributor of anti-graffiti products, in Highland Lakes, New Jersey. “It’s become an acceptable part of city life,” perhaps receding into the background of the urban landscape.

The Oxford Dictionary defines graffiti as “writing or drawing scribbled, scratched, or sprayed illicitly on a wall or other surface in a public place.” Most of it is “tagging,” a name spray-painted on a wall, often put up in lightning speed. But, according to Nicholas LaSorsa, owner of the Astoria-based Hudson Power Washing, “almost all graffiti in the city is ‘tagging,’” which, he says, “is just a term for somebody getting their name up really quick.”

While most of the graffiti images in New York are tags (the writer’s signature rendered in marker or paint), other forms include the “throw-up” or “fill-in” painted with an outline color and a fill-in color, and the “piece,” short for masterpiece, a large, elaborate, colorful mural.

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