By Bill Parry
The NYPD’s Hate Crimes Task Force is currently investigating the rash of malicious graffiti that is appearing on buildings and signs around Astoria. For the third time in three weeks, homophobic graffiti has been discovered on the building housing the district offices of state Sen. Michael Gianaris (D-Astoria) and Assemblywoman Aravella Simotas (D-Astoria). The latest hateful message discovered Monday morning is believed to have been sprayed on a wall late Sunday night, according to Gianaris’ spokeswoman, Liza Acevedo.
Over the weekend, the NYPD released surveillance video of a man suspected of criminal mischief in the case, who wrote derogatory comments about former President Barack Obama with a marker pen on the wall at Pistilli Towers, located at 31-19 Newtown Ave. The perpetrator is believed to be a white or light-skinned Hispanic man, 30 to 40 years old, who is left-handed and was seen in the video wearing a hooded jacket and a baseball cap, police said.
The 114th Precinct will be stepping up patrols in the area. Anyone with information is asked to call the NYPD’s Crime Stoppers Hotline at 1-800-577-TIPS.
“It is clear this bigot is trying to send a message of intolerance to our community, but it will not work,” Gianaris said. “I am confident the NYPD will apprehend the person committing these disturbing acts and I am thankful for their continued efforts.”
Gianaris has taken direct aim at the Trump administration, including introducing legislation that would prohibit the Port Authority from utilizing any of its resources in support of the president’s executive order authorizing the Muslim travel ban. Additionally, Gianaris introduced legislation that would add immigration status to the list of protected classes in the state’s Human Rights and Civil Right Laws and has fought federal efforts that would discriminate against people based on their ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation and gender.
Simotas introduced legislation earlier this month that would protect undocumented immigrant crime victims.
“It will take more than a bigot with a magic marker to stop me from fighting for the values of tolerance and inclusiveness,” Gianaris said.
City Councilman Costa Constantinides (D-Astoria) was equally defiant.
“It’s despicable and it’s not what this community is all about,” he said. “That type of hate has no place in this neighborhood. They’re trying to intimidate us and make us stay quiet because we know what the national administration is doing in levying attacks against our neighbors and friends.”
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparr