NDG graffiti bylaw no help to business, owner says

A new bylaw demands that buildings remain graffiti-free, and expects business-owners to cover the costs of vandalism.

Shop owner frustrated that graffiti continues one year since bylaw came into effect

N.D.G. business owner decries bylaw that he says victimizes him 2:07

A business owner in Côte-des-Neiges-Notre-Dame-de-Grâce is criticizing the borough's anti-graffiti bylaw, saying it hasn't done enough to stop vandals in the year since it was introduced.

Last October, the borough adopted a bylaw requiring buildings be kept graffiti-free.

The borough agreed to pay for removal on small businesses and residential properties with fewer than six units. However, owners of larger commerical and industrial buildings like Lyon Kunin must front the bill themselves.

Kunin, the co-owner of the Udisco a hobby shop on Decarie Boulevard, says he is struggling to keep up with the bylaw's demands as vandals continue to tag his property.

"As soon as you paint it and take it off, you're giving them a canvas to paint back on again," he said.

Kunin recently received a notice from the city to remove a graffiti tag from his building. The building also features a street-art mural, which is allowed by the borough.

He followed through and hired a company to paint over the tagging.

By the end of their first day, the painters had finished half the job. When they returned the next morning, the building was once again covered with graffiti tags.

Councillor sympathizes with frustration

Borough councillor Susan Clark expressed sympathy for Kunin's struggle.  

She suggested alternative ways for dealing with the graffiti, including motion-sensor lights and cameras, as well as planting vines or rose bushes at the base of exterior walls.

Clark also pointed to a special product that can be applied to allow spray paint to be washed off, so that owners can avoid painting over the graffiti each time. 

But Kunin said the product is too expensive and that high-pressure washing would damage his building. 

As for cameras, Kunin said they rarely work.

"I've got cameras… I've recorded them and all you get is the back of a hoodie."

Businessman proposes more police involvement

Kunin wants the borough to create an anti-graffiti police squad. 

However, Clark said when police often catch the vandals, they are minors and end up getting sent back to their parents.

 "When they're charged, almost nothing happens in terms of incarceration," she explained.  

Kunin hopes the borough reconsiders forcing business owners like him to pay when vandals strike. He says he has spent thousands on removing graffiti over the last 15 years.

"I pay about 30,000 a year in taxes on one building…. Why isn't that money going to removing tagging?" he asked.