New tools bring hope for foiling graffiti vandals


The Robert J. Christen School (P.S. 81) yard, along with the Riverdale Neighborhood House’s (RNH) grounds, have been littered with graffiti and broken glass over the years, incidents that some say have become more common. 

But school and RNH officials vow they are doing their best to alleviate it.

A fence belonging to the neighborhood house next to the P.S. 81 yard has had to be painted over numerous times thanks to graffiti, RNH Executive Director Daniel Eudene said. Frigid temperatures this winter slowed down efforts to paint over vandalized walls and the markings had to remain until the weather was more accommodating.

Spray paint used to make graffiti can’t be removed in any other way aside from covering it with a fresh coat of household paint, according to Mr. Eudene.

“It’s a growing problem in our community and there is just no way to keep up with it,” Mr. Eudene said. “I go to the Home Depot and try to get a color that best matches.”

Security cameras and lights facing the P.S. 81 schoolyard are being installed at the neighborhood house in order to deter or identify vandals going forward. Mr. Eudene added that the impetus for security cameras came after the neighborhood house’s pool had to be closed, drained and scraped after glass was discovered in the water on July 4. 

Mr. Eudene said he received tips from young neighborhood house employees regarding who might have caused the damage, but admitted that no one was ever positively identified and brought to justice. 

“Kids drink in the school yard and break glass for fun. I don’t understand what joy that brings people,” Mr. Eudene said.

Around the corner at P.S. 81, Principal Anne Kirrane said she began meeting with police from the 50th Precinct in hopes of getting a stronger police presence after RNH’s pool had to be cleaned. School officials would like to install security cameras, but there is not enough funding for them, she said. 

“This has been an ongoing problem for many years. It’s not like [the police] don’t patrol the area. I’m sure the kids just know where to hide,” Ms. Kirrane said.

Broken glass is the biggest issue for the schoolyard. Custodians clean the area whenever any is found, Ms. Kirrane assured. Kids jump over the chain link fence so they can get into the schoolyard to hang out and make mischief at night.

“Kids don’t have anywhere to hang out. If there were more access to clubs and places to socialize it would be beneficial for the children,” Ms. Kirrane said.