Call it a gateway toy.
Assemblyman Phil Goldfeder (D-Rockaway Park) wants a stencil toy removed from store shelves because he’s afraid it will promote graffiti vandalism and ultimately more serious crimes.
Standing next to the Hawtree Basin Bridge, the pedestrian overpass over the body of water between Hamilton Beach and Howard Beach Monday with community leaders and the 106th Precinct Auxiliary Unit, Goldfeder said the toy, called KIDFFITI, only exacerbates the graffiti problem that plagues communities.
“This product is using marketing ploys to encourage unsuspecting children to deface their communities,” Goldfeder said. “We should be educating our children to keep our community clean, not providing them the tools to potentially deface it. I strongly urge Toys “R” Us and any retailer selling this harmful item to remove it immediately from their shelves.”
Goldfeder sent a letter to the Toys “R” Us CEO, Antonio Urcelay, requesting KIDFFITI be cleared from their shelves permanently. He also reached out to the Department of Consumer Affairs encouraging them to use every possible mechanism to pressure retailers to keep the city safe and clean. The agency responded immediately and committed to work with Goldfeder and any relevant retailers to discuss the effects of the sale of graffiti stencils and possible solutions to address stencil availability.
Currently, “KIDFFITI” graffiti stencils are sold in major toy stores, including Toys “R” Us and small retail stores throughout the City. The stencils include designs such as chains and skulls for children 6-years-old and older to copy.
Children use chalk that comes in a can similar to spray paint that is easily removable.
“It’s discouraging to see graffiti in our neighborhood and it’s especially disheartening to see it reappear on a wall that was recently cleaned,” said Roger Gendron, president of the Hamilton Beach Civic Association. “I want to thank Assemblyman Phil Goldfeder for his advocacy and work to help deter children from polluting the walls of our community with graffiti.”
Though there’s no evidence of KIDFITTI graffiti on the bridge, Goldfeder said he became aware of the problem through the police and their efforts to clean regular graffiti there.
He noted that graffiti vandalism is one of the many minor crimes that police crack down on as part of the controversial “broken windows” policy, in which police go over minor infractions to prevent more serious crimes from occurring.
“Graffiti vandalism is a gateway crime that not only affects the quality of life, but could lead to more serious offenses,” Goldfeder said.
He does not expect to draft any legislation that would ban the toy, saying he hopes “it doesn’t come to that.”
A spokeswoman for Toys “R” Us declined to comment on the matter and an email and phone call to Jaxx, the California-based company that manufactures KIDFITTI, did not return requests for comment by press time.