By Bill Parry
After two instances of anti-LGBT graffiti were discovered in Astoria last weekend, one elected official took immediate action and then announced plans to continue to organize his community to respond to the rise of hate crimes, bigotry and bullying in western Queens since Election Day.
City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside) received news of another troubling bias incident in western Queens Sunday. Someone had scrawled “kill fags & dykes” on a poster for World Pride in Madrid, Spain, at a bus stop on Steinway Street near 31st Avenue in Astoria.
Van Bramer alerted the authorities and gathered some window cleaner and a sponge and removing the offending graffiti himself.
“Hate crimes are on the rise. It’s on all of us to step up and say loud and clear that these are not our values and this is not normal,” Van Bramer said. “When a constituent notified me of the hateful and homophobic graffiti on this bus shelter, I reported it immediately, but couldn’t stand to see it up a second longer—so I cleaned it up myself. I know that in Queens we value and celebrate our differences, and when we come together, love will always trump hate.”
Later Sunday, state Sen. Michael Gianaris (D-Astoria) was made aware of the same message defacing a second bus stop in Astoria, near 30th Avenue and 36th Street. He alerted authorities who removed it immediately.
“I will not allow hostility and prejudice to divide our great community and will work to ensure any form of bigotry will be aggressively rejected,” Gianaris said. “It is disgusting to see these incidents continuing in our country. We must continue to respect one another, no matter our differences.”
Van Bramer announced Monday a third mass action in his #QueensValues campaign. In the weeks since Donald Trump became president-elect, Van Bramer hosted a Community Speak Out in Sunnyside followed by a march across the Queensboro Bridge to Trump Plaza that drew more than a thousand protesters Nov. 26.
“Hate crimes, bigotry and bullying are on the rise — just this weekend, three drunk men harassed and attacked a Muslim woman on a train platform while bystanders stood by and did nothing,” Van Bramer said. “That’s why I invite everyone to a community self-defense, anti-bullying, de-escalation, and upstander training, so we all know how to respond in hateful situations.”
The Women’s Initiative for Self-Empowerment and the Center for Anti-Violence Education will provide the training at the Sunnyside Community Services center, located at 43-31 39th St. Wednesday, Dec. 14. All are welcome between 6 p.m. and 8 p.m.
RSVP by phone at (718) 383-9566 or by e-mail at eehre
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparr