By Mark Hallum
The derelict Holliswood Hospital has once again been a canvas for hate symbol graffiti after a swastika was discovered on the roof of the building now enclosed in a construction gate where a housing development is being built.
The swastika, displayed on the stairwell shed of the hospital, was reported April 20 to the 107th Precinct, which covered it up the day after they were notified by the surrounding residents, who take pride in their values as a diverse community.
State Assemblyman David Weprin (D-Fresh Meadows), City Councilman Barry Grodenchik (D-Oakland Gardens) and Rabbi Moshe Taub gathered at an April 27 press conference to condemn the act, which echoed a June 2017 incident when the Nazi symbol and racist language was scrawled along the side of the building.
“If a picture is worth about a thousand words, the image of a swastika is worth about 6 million,” said Taub of Young Israel of Holliswood, referring to the estimated death toll of the Nazi genocide against Jews. “I hope we could rectify this horrible situation and never see it again, but also note the image – the picture – of a unified community today. That’s the picture and a thousand words that America stands for.”
Residents along the quiet, secluded road neighboring the hospital at 8737 Palermo St. said they have seen teenagers use the holes in the construction fence to climb over and questioned developer and landowner Steve Cheung about his efforts to secure the building. The developer said although he has made the effort to secure the doors and windows, people repeatedly find their way in whether it’s through a broken window or forcing open doors.
“We live together side-by-side, work together, play together in the wonderful parks we have out here, we learn together, we do all these things together as a community… We’re too busy to hate,” Grodenchik said. “Unfortunately, there are one or two people in this community who aren’t too busy to hate.”
While the building still stands in disrepair, Cheung has already started building some of the 20 single family homes in the small development that will include the grounds on which the hospital sits.
At a news conference following the June 2017 incident, up to 40 community members turned out to voice their concerns over not only the hate graffiti, but also Cheung’s supposedly lackluster efforts at remedying the attractive nuisance the building had become.
Holliswood Civic Association President Linda Valentino, who also attended Friday’s new conference, said back in June the developer was unresponsive to multiple requests for better security of the property, which is “just screaming for this to happen.”
Weprin said the 107th Precinct is investigating the latest incident as a hate crime and hopes the weight of the charges will discourage this kind of graffiti from happening again in the future.
Holliswood Hospital had 125 beds and operated as a private psychiatric facility before shutting its doors in 2013 after some financial hardship.
Reach reporter Mark Hallum by e-mail at mhall