As if our law enforcement couldn't stoop any lower....
New face of vandalism?
A 6-year-old Park Slope girl is facing a $300 fine from the city for doing what city kids have been doing for decades: drawing a pretty picture with common sidewalk chalk.
Obviously not all of Natalie Shea’s 10th Street neighbors thought her blue chalk splotch was her best work — a neighbor called 311 to report the “graffiti,” and the Department of Sanitation quickly sent a standard letter to Natalie’s mom, Jen Pepperman.
Can somebody stop these bureaucrats before they Kafka again?
“PLEASE REMOVE THE GRAFFITI FROM YOUR PROPERTY,” the Sanitation Department warning letter read. “FAILURE TO COMPLY … MAY RESULT IN ENFORCEMENT ACTION AGAINST YOU.”
Since when is a kid’s chalk drawing “graffiti”? Since the City Council passed local law 111 in 2005, which defined “graffiti” as “any letter, word, name, number, symbol, slogan, message, drawing, picture, writing … that is drawn, painted, chiseled, scratched, or etched on a commercial building or residential building.”
In other words, Natalie Shea is not an artistic little girl, but a graffiti scofflaw?
No. The law goes on to say that the scribbles can only be called “graffiti” if they are “not consented to by the owner of the commercial building or residential building.” But how could the 311 caller possibly be expected to know if Natalie had her mom’s consent to use chalk on her own front stoop?
“He could have just asked!” Pepperman said. “This whole thing is ridiculous. Admittedly, this drawing was not her best work — she usually sticks to cheerful scenes, not abstracts, frankly — but to send a warning letter like that is outrageous.”
Pepperman ticked off any number of daily insults to common decency on her block, including (but not limited to) dog poop, garbage from ill-kept homes, and noise from car alarms. But Sanitation didn’t get a 311 call about those indignities. It got a call about a 6-year-old’s drawing.
“The report came in as ‘graffiti,’ and, as you know, the city is trying to crack down on graffiti on private property,” said agency spokeswoman Cathy Dawkins.
“It’s a standard warning letter,” added Dawkins. “The property owner has 45 days to remove it or ask the city to remove it. We’ll inspect after that, and if the graffiti is still there, the property owner has another 60 days before we’ll write a summons.”
For sidewalk chalk that would dissolve at the first rain? Dawkins said the law is on her agency’s side.
“The instrument used — whether it’s paint or chalk — does not matter,” she said.
But if Dawkins is right, than the city has just criminalized hopscotch or drawing arrows to point neighbors towards a stoop sale down the block — as long as a neighbor calls 311 to complain.
Read the rest of it here: The Brooklyn Paper: New face of vandalism?
My goodness, I don't know who I should hate more, the a**hole neighbor who called her in, or the enforcers who took it seriously. This is just plain failure.