Community rallies behind efforts to cut down on graffiti in the French Quarter

“The historic Vieux Carre is the engine of New Orleans’ tourism. So any negative experience like vandalism, which graffiti is vandalism, it brings the visitor experience down,” said Mamie Gasperecz of the French Quarter Management District.
Published: Jul. 6, 2022 at 10:36 PM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - Graffiti has long plagued New Orleans’ tourism mecca, but renewed efforts from community advocates and the city aim to cut down on the tagging of buildings and infrastructure in the French Quarter.

At the site of the Hard Rock collapse, graffiti has taken over the adjacent walls of a nearby building and parking garage, greeting visitors to the French Quarter. On Decatur Street, graffiti can be viewed on abandoned storefronts.

“During Mardi Gras, there was like throw up in the streets and it was dirty and disgusting. Now, it’s like you look around and it just feels a little [dirtyish], and I guess [the graffiti] adds to it,” said Sara Horowitz, who’s visiting from Brooklyn, NY.

“We’re from the Bay Area, so it sort of goes hand in hand, cities and graffiti,” said tourist Wendi Agans from San Francisco. “I think if it’s like some of this, there’s some art involved in this as well, it’s kind of good.”

The practice of “tagging” a building is commonplace, and many street artists make their living painting on the walls of historic French Quarter structures that have become dilapidated. But Mamie Gasperecz of the French Quarter Management District (FQMD) said recently the graffiti problem in the Quarter has escalated, with more businesses and residents reporting tagging on or near their property.

“We’ve heard it anecdotally, we’ve heard it from our constituent groups,” said Gasperecz. “While we don’t have a formal survey, just any tour about the Quarter you can see that it’s on the uptick.”

Recently, FQMD, along with various community partners, launched the “Keep the Quarter Clean” campaign, aimed at spreading awareness of how to report incidents of waste for sanitation crews to address. Gasperecz said she expects to see the campaign expanded to include graffiti.

“The historic Vieux Carre is the engine of New Orleans’ tourism. So any negative experience, vandalism, which graffiti is vandalism, it brings the visitor experience down,” she added.

As part of the campaign, pamphlets are being placed in every French Quarter hotel room to inform visitors about reporting various quality of life issues. Gasperecz said Keep Louisiana Beautiful recently awarded $3,500 to the campaign.

The Vieux Carre Property Owners and Residents Association (VCPORA) is part of the team that put the campaign together. Erin Holmes, executive director of the association, said neighborhood stakeholder groups have also recently relaunched the Vieux Carre Graffiti Abatement Program.

“There is a lot of concern among all of the stakeholders in the French Quarter right now about the appearance of graffiti and the fact that it is becoming more apparent, it’s on the rise, and it represents a visual decay of the neighborhood that affects quality of life, quality of experience,” Holmes said.

A complicating factor for property owners who want to clean up graffiti on their property is the permitting process to do so. Owners must obtain a permit from the Vieux Carre Commission (VCC) to do any exterior work, including painting over graffiti.

“Whether it’s on paint or it’s on stucco material, you do need to meet with the VCC to get an approved abatement treatment program, and currently the VCC staff is working to streamline that permitting process,” Holmes said.

Meanwhile, efforts are underway at the city level to address head on the appearance of graffiti in the Quarter. A spokesperson for the Mayor’s Office said they’ve assembled the “Mayor’s Strike Team,” with 38 members split between the FQMD, the Downtown Development District (DDD) and the Department of Sanitation.

The team has been operating for about a month, according to the spokesperson.

Meanwhile, Davon Barbour of the DDD said the organization has recently sent letters to all property owners who have been the subject of complaints due to the presence of graffiti.

Barbour said DDD cannot clean graffiti from private properties, but offers to cover 50 percent of the cost for property owners. DDD can clean graffiti from public property.

If you want to submit a complaint about graffiti, you can do so through the city’s 311 portal here.

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