The New York City Council has passed three new anti-graffiti bills which Bloomberg is no doubt itching to sign into law. Intro. No. 663-A amends existing law to mandate community service in a graffiti cleanup program as the minimum penalty for getting caught. Another bill announces a new “possesion ban,” making it illegal for anyone under 21 to carry spray paint, inks, or other graffiti supplies on public property.

Those first two mostly extend current laws, but the third moves the city’s law in a new and disturbing direction. Intro No. 299-A requires owners of commercial and residential buildings to remove graffiti from their property within 60 days of its appearance, or face fines. We’ve seen this kind of thing elsewhere in the country, but to my knowledge this is the first mandated-buff law in NYC. Just reading the text of the bill, you can tell that at least some councilmembers had serious objections on free speech and property rights grounds:

[I]t is important that graffiti in public view be cleaned as quickly as possible, while respecting property rights and First Amendment free speech rights.The goal of this legislation is to. . . addresses the need to rid our communities of graffiti as well as protect our important freedoms.

Right. It’ll be interesting to see how this new law is enforced. These kinds of regulations are regularly included in zoning rules in small cities or suburban towns — New York’s size and the prevalence of absentee landlords who barely provide heat for their tenants should probably make implementation much more difficult.

Photo at top: “Epitaph” by Lee Quinones, from Martha Cooper & Henry Chalfant’s book Subway Art.