To the Editor:
I read with great interest the story, “Some color for Sunrise,” in last week’s Herald about artwork on the Long Island Rail Road trestle along Sunrise Highway.
I believe the story was missing some important information. First, while we appreciate community groups adopting our blocks and parks and covering graffiti, there is more to the story than that.
The village diligently watches for the spread of graffiti. When we find this scourge or if it is reported to us, we try, whenever possible, to remove or cover it and report it to the proper authorities as quickly as possible. Businesses, other public entities and homeowners are advised to maintain their property and remove graffiti as quickly as possible, and the village does its share to quickly remove graffiti from our public spaces.
In the case of the LIRR trestle, members of our workforce constantly check this property for signs of defacing. This effort tripled when a mural was placed there. Even though the mural was created without permission, we did not want to see it defaced, nor did we want to see it lead to the spread of other unauthorized works elsewhere.
Sadly, on a Saturday morning back in December, we found graffiti from Lynbrook all the way to the Valley Stream LIRR station. Our Parks Department was dispatched, and we had to remove and/or cover the graffiti. This was a taxpayer expense of time, labor and materials that certainly could have been better spent elsewhere.
Rest assured that the village did not paint over the mural. The following week, the LIRR painted over the entire area, including the mural, in a matching gray paint.
It is important to know that before graffiti is covered up, the Nassau County Police Department must be notified to respond to the scene to photograph and record the crime. Again, their time is certainly spent better elsewhere. If someone from the community is covering up graffiti without reporting it to the village or the police department, which monitor and track such crimes, this is an area of community activism gone awry. Graffiti is a crime for a reason.
Community groups’ volunteering in our village is a noble cause. I’m certain that the artists who created the original mural were well intentioned and passionate about their work, but clearly, all factors were not considered before undertaking this endeavor.
The article also stated that “the feedback was nothing but positive.” This, too, is incorrect. If anyone had checked with us, the village received multiple complaints regarding the mural. People wanted to know, among other things: Who authorized the painting? Can anyone paint anything they want on public property? Did anyone consider traffic slowdowns along Sunrise Highway? Why is “art” placed along a main thoroughfare? Who decided what type of art is appropriate? Did we have a public hearing or vote on what type of art should be displayed? Please understand, we received plenty of negative feedback.
Communication and education are part of the mainstays of my administration. We also love and appreciate art and free expression, but there are important safeguards in place, again, for good reason. I would like to offer this as a lesson, and take this opportunity to invite all our local artists and art lovers to participate in our second annual “Art in the Park” at the gazebo in Hendrickson Park on April 26. Here, in a beautiful lakeside setting, local artists are invited to display their works and the public is invited free of charge. As far as the ongoing trestle art issue, the final outcome rests with the MTA, which controls the property.