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Graffiti Is Making A Big Comeback In NYC, But There's No Money In The Budget To Fight It

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- A surge in gun violence isn't the only sign New York is returning to the bad old days.

Graffiti is popping up all over the city, and Mayor Bill de Blasio has decided not to spend money to fix it.

If you've been wondering why the city has been a whole lot more colorful -- and not in a good way -- it's because the budget for removing graffiti has disappeared, and not everyone is happy about it, CBS2's Marcia Kramer reported Tuesday.

"We've been getting a lot of complaints about graffiti," said Manhattan City Councilman Ben Kallos. "We're seeing more graffiti complaints now than ever before since I've been a council member."

Kallos is not exaggerating. In a depressing sign of the times -- a return to the bad old days of the '70s and '80s -- graffiti has been popping up all over the city. On storefronts, buildings, construction barricades, the Fairway sign on the West Side Highway, and most visibly on the surrogates court and David N. Dinkins Manhattan Municipal Building near City Hall, painted by City Hall protesters who still occupy City Hall park.

And there's a reason.

"The city has zeroed out the budget for graffiti removal city-wide. This is a problem, and it means graffiti is only going to get worse," Kallos said.

WATCH: Mayor Bill de Blasio Holds Daily Briefing

And that's not all. CBS2 has learned that 311 is no longer taking graffiti complaints. The 311 website says the Graffiti Free NYC graffiti removal program for residential and commercial buildings has been suspended indefinitely so the city can devote resources to essential needs.

At his press briefing, de Blasio was asked about removing the graffiti on the buildings around City Hall -- not City Hall, itself, which is kept clean -- but on the surrogates court and David N. Dinkins Municipal Building. It seems it's a tale of two cities: He'll spend the money to clean the government buildings, just not private ones.

"Graffiti on public buildings will be removed, period. We've been dealing with budget challenges. We can't do everything that we used to do in terms of private buildings," de Blasio said.

Kallos doesn't agree that the city can't afford to deal with graffiti.

"We need to clean it up. We can't abandon keeping our city clean. We did see a budget cut, but we still have an $86 billion budget and that should include taking care of our city and cleaning up graffiti," Kallos said.

"I'm not crazy about it," one person said.

"I do understand people need to express themselves at a time like this, but it isn't very attractive," said another.

"It's horrible. I mean, it's a disgrace having this," said another.

And while 311 is not taking complaints, you can call the cops.

A spokesperson for de Blasio told Kramer that if they're not responding to emergencies, they will take a look and even write a report. But it still won't get the graffiti cleaned up.


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