Army of Local Volunteers, with NYPD, Attack Graffiti on Canal Street

Many of the volunteers in the graffiti cleanup were members of Boy Scout Troop 3 in Lower Manhattan. Supplies were donated by the Soho Broadway Inititiative and the Downtown Alliance. Photo: Carl Glassman/Tribeca Trib

Apr. 13, 2021

A fresh coat of paint now hides the nearly block-long stretch of graffiti scrawled on Canal Street storefronts between Church Street and Broadway. It’s all thanks to some two dozen Lower Manhattan volunteers, mostly teens, and the NYPD’s graffiti clean-up initiative that took place city-wide on Saturday, April 10.

The local cleaning crew, overseen by 1st Precinct officers, was among more than 300 teams deployed by precincts around the city. “It’s not just about cleaning up New York  City,” Jeffrey Maddrey, the NYPD’s Chief of Community Affairs, said that day. “It’s about having the police and the community working together.”

In Lower Manhattan, at least, the cleanup was also about providing young people with a chance to serve their community. Many came from local Boy Scout Troop 3.

“I have teenagers and I thought it would be good for kids to do something,” said Andrea Dattoma, a Battery Park City resident who helped spread the word about the well-attended event. I think they need to step up a little.”

“It’s a lot of fun,” noted Hank Ford, an 8th grader at Lower Manhattan Community Middle School, who was rolling grey paint over a heavily graffitied roll-down gate. “It’s all about community building and it’s a great way to get community service.”

“We’re going to make it look very nice at the end,” he added.

One of the store owners, open for business that morning, watched the activity with interest and wondered just how long the block would look this nice. “You cover it up, it comes again tomorrow,” he said.

Before the pandemic, the city’s multi-agency Anti-Graffiti Task Force responded to complaints about the problem, but it was disbanded last year due to budget constraints. In 2020, the city received more than 6,000 graffiti complaints. 

“Usually we would have our NCOs [Neighborhood Coordination Officers] survey the areas for graffiti and then put in a request to other agencies, and we could get this cleaned up somehow,” said Jonathan Chan, the 1st Precinct’s Youth Coordination Officer who, along with Officer Jason Poirier, were in charge of the cleanup crew. “It’s harder now.”

The NYPD anticipates doing more community graffiti cleanups this summer. To report complaints, write to

“We have a lot of work to do,” said Police Commissioner Dermot Shea. “That’s the bottom line.”