Marine Park Hate Vandalism Prompts Town Hall Meeting
By Neil S. Friedman
A recent outbreak of anti-Semitic incidents in Brooklyn has spurred indignation from the victims as well as several elected officials from the halls of Congress in Washington, DC, to Brooklyn’s Borough Hall to the statehouse in Albany, including Congressman Anthony Weiner, Governor George Pataki, State Senator Carl Kruger, Assemblywoman Helene Weinstein, City Councilman Lew Fidler and Borough President Marty Markowitz.
In the latest episode, stunned Marine Park residents awoke last Thursday morning to find more than two dozen cars on Avenue T, between Haring and Brown streets, had been defaced with spray-painted red swastikas on hoods, trunks, fenders and doors.
Weiner, whose congressional district includes Sheepshead Bay, parts of Canarsie and other Brooklyn communities, issued a statement within hours after he learned of the incident. "Today’s discovery…is deeply troubling. Whether the act of witless vandals or the more sinister work of those who understand the full import of its message, today’s acts were an example of anti-Semitism in its worst form. (These) acts constitute a hateful blow directed at Sheepshead Bay’s close-knit community, as well as people of good will throughout Brooklyn, New York City, and the Jewish community at large."
This occurrence, which is the latest in a string of anti-Semitic incidents in south Brooklyn, prompted Weiner to convene a special town hall meeting that will be held tonight at 7 p.m. in the Kings Bay Y at 3495 Nostrand Avenue near Avenue V. Many elected officials, including U.S. senators Charles Schumer and Hillary Rodham Clinton, Kruger, Fidler, Weinstein and Markowitz are scheduled to participate, in addition to representatives from the NYPD’s Hate Crime Unit, the Anti-Defamation League and local religious leaders.
Senator Kruger called last week’s vandalism, the latest anti-Semitic incident to rock his district in recent days, a "deeply disturbing" trend.
Kruger went to the block last Thursday morning upon learning of the defacements.
"This is hitting people where it hurts, and we will not put up with this kind of hooliganism infused with hate," said Kruger, who vowed to introduce a bill in Albany calling for "increased penalties for desecrating property with religious hate symbols or words."
Prior to this incident, the south Brooklyn Democrat introduced legislation asking for stiffer penalties in burglaries committed at houses of worship.
Four days earlier, Kruger visited an apartment on East 51 Street in Flatlands where a father and son returned home after a weekend away to find their apartment had been burglarized and marred with anti-Semitic graffiti. A swastika had been burned into the ceiling, the words "Kill the Jews" was written on doors and walls and a chef’s knife was used to slice a Star of David candle and puncture a wooden coffee table.
In addition, a Muslim gas station attendant stopped a man who was attempting to douse a Sheepshead Bay synagogue, located across the street from where he works, with gasoline and setting it ablaze.
Last week, police also arrested a suspect wanted in a string of synagogue burglaries in the 61st Precinct area. It was not revealed if he was a suspect in any of the anti-Semitic vandal incidents.
Last September the parochial school next-door to Good Shepherd Church, just a few blocks from the spray-painted autos, was victimized by vandals who scrawled a swastika on its façade.
Responding to the new graffiti attack, Councilman Fidler said, "(The) incident involving the painting of swastikas in Marine Park was disgusting and sick.
"I am joining Assemblywoman Helene Weinstein in offering an additional $500 reward for information relating to the arrest of the individual or individuals responsible for this outrageous act.
"The rash of anti-Semitic incidents that have recently plagued our community troubles me greatly."
Borough President Markowitz visited the scene of the anti-Semitic episode with police from the 61st Precinct, and denounced the attack. "…Once the perpetrators are caught…they should be made to attend a Holocaust education class and meet with Holocaust survivors so they can fully understand the profound impact of their actions of the community."
Markowitz also urged Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly to organize a task force "to look into the disturbing number of anti-Semitic incidents that have occurred in southern Brooklyn in the past several days" and to determine if there is any possible connection.
The Anti-Defamation League last Thursday announced it was offering a $1,000 reward "for anyone with information leading to the conviction of those responsible for an apparent hate crime." Kruger added another $500 to the rewards offered by Fidler and Weinstein.
On Friday, Governor Pataki issued a statement on the Marine Park vandalism, saying, "Not only is this a crime against the people of the Jewish faith, it is a crime against all New Yorkers…Those who aggressively promote bigotry must be caught and prosecuted…This hatred will not stand."
Police Department officials said the NYPD Hate Crimes Task Force is investigating the anti-Semitic graffiti found in Marine Park, which is not markedly Jewish. In fact, police said most of the graffiti victims are Irish-Catholic.
Anyone with information regarding these attacks is asked to call police at 800-577-TIPS.