I recently returned from a visit to Baltimore with my two young sons. As tourists often do, we went to the National Aquarium and had a pit beef sandwich for lunch. Being an urbanist at heart, I always take some extra time to drive around Baltimore before heading back home to Philadelphia. Philly and Baltimore share more than a few qualities: row houses, complicated social histories around race and ethnicity, disproportionately impoverished populations in the wake of deindustrialization, as well as some of the most interesting architecture and urban forms of any cities in the country.
Baltimore is a particularly beautiful city in many ways, especially architecturally, despite its many flaws (anyone from Philadelphia notices urban flaws — don’t take it personally). But I was absolutely amazed at the disgraceful scope of graffiti all over the city we drove around. In particular, I was amazed at how much vandalism mars Howard Street and other parts of what was once the city’s main retail center (”Healthy Howard Row: 5 new Black-owned businesses take root on a single Baltimore block,” Aug. 28). This is Baltimore’s real downtown, not the Inner Harbor and Harbor East that people from out of town imagine is the downtown, and it is a total mess. Graffiti is just another layer on what was already a heady project for urban regeneration yet to happen.
I don’t write this to degrade Baltimore. Rather, I point this out because graffiti removal is one of the only services Philadelphia provides to private properties in a timely and consistent fashion. Both our cities are drowning under inconsistent service provision and scandalously high tax burdens (I’ll reserve comment on Baltimore’s breathtaking property taxes for another letter). Can’t Baltimore do something about graffiti? Baltimore is a lot cleaner than Philadelphia otherwise, I think.
I had read that the city was going to resume private property graffiti removal as of this past June. What is the status of this? Baltimore still shines in many ways despite layers of tarnish and I hope the city can do something about epidemic graffiti vandalism.
Ryan Caviglia, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
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