BID to tackle downtown Riverhead graffiti problem

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Pablo Peralta of Servpro of the North Fork, based in Riverside, cleans graffiti off the former Dionsaur building in downtown Riverhead Tuesday morning.

The Riverhead Business Improvement District this week began removing graffiti from the sides of downtown businesses before those businesses received fines from the town.

BID officials have been discussing various methods of removing graffiti, “but all of them require a letter from the property owner, which can take forever,” said BID president Ray Pickersgill. So they reasoned that since the business owners in downtown pay BID taxes, that “the BID’s money is their money.” “We want to do it now,” Mr. Pickersgill said.

The Town Code requires that owners of buildings defaced by graffiti remove it within 14 days of being notified by the town to do so, or they will face fines of up to $250.

Mr. Pickersgill said the owners of the downtown buildings from which they are removing graffiti are being saved from paying the fine.

“I’m sure they prefer this to a $250 fine,” he said.

The BID has hired Servpro of the North Fork, which is charging them only for materials and doing the labor for free, so that the total cost will be about $700, Mr. Pickersgill said. Once Servpro removes the graffiti from a building, if the paint is in bad shape, they repaint using a type of paint that can’t be graffitied over, Mr. Pickersgill said.

The Servpro franchise the BID is using is not the same one Riverhead Town hired to remove mold from Town Hall last year. Using that franchise was controversial because of alleged connections to the town supervisor’s office staff, he said.

The graffiti removal began on the former West Marine building, then moved to the former Dinosaur Museum building and will continue to the West Main Street laundromat, Mr. Pickersgill said. After that, it will move to buildings on the north side of Main Street.

The BID also is seeking bids on a camera surveillance system, to protect against future graffiti and crime. They plan to have a camera mounted on a pole above the restrooms behind the former Sweezy’s building, as well as on top of light poles along the waterfront. One system they looked at, recommended by Atlantis Marine World owner Jim Bissett, can store videos for 30 days, has infrared for night footage and can cover the Peconic River parking lot and Grangebel Park, all for about $34,000, Mr. Pickersgill said.