By Carlotta Mohamed
A swastika found written on the Flushing Business Improvement District booth, located on Main Street and Kissena Boulevard, was immediately painted over within an hour after a constituent notified City Councilman Peter Koo’s (D-Flushing) office.
“While this is not the first time our community has had to denounce the ideologies of hatred, ignorance and intolerance, we remain vigilant and determined to condemn such disturbing bigotry each and every time it rears its ugly head,” said Koo. “Flushing is the birthplace of religious freedom. We embrace diversity, equality, and multiculturalism. We have no place for hate here.”
According to Koo, a constituent said the swastika has been there for a long time.
“It’s a busy area so it’s surprising no one noticed, but it’s not exactly a place where people stand around either,” the councilman said.
An opposing message “Love trumps hate” was written near the swastika that remains a potent symbol of racist hatred adopted by the Nazi Party to symbolize German nationalistic pride.
The information was forwarded to the 109th Precinct and the Flushing BID, which painted over the written swastika.
“As this is the only one that was found, it doesn’t appear at this point to be anything pre-meditated like what happened recently in Bensonhurst,” said Koo. “But it’s not the first time we’ve had this sort of thing happen, so we wanted to be vocal about it and make sure it was removed quickly.”
On Aug. 6 in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Bensonhurst, several Asian-owned businesses along 86th street near Bay 25th Street were defaced with obscene anti-Chinese graffiti that had residents and elected officials condemning the hate-filled vandalism, according to the Brooklyn Daily Eagle.
Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams said the incident will not silence the community, and offered a $1,000 reward for more information leading to an arrest of the suspect who committed the act.
According to a report from the Anti-Defamation League, Queens had the largest increase in anti-Semitic incidents in New York City in 2017 with 39 reported incidents compared to 11 in 2016.
Among the 380 reported anti-Semitic incidents in New York state in 2017, there were 236 incidents of vandalism, 133 incidents of harassment, and 11 incidents of assault. In Queens, swastikas were drawn on slides at a playground, glass panes shattered on the front doors of an Orthodox synagogue (including bomb threats against Jewish institutions), a swastika with the phrase “no Jews” written in a bathroom at a K-8 school, and a vandalized sign at JFK Airport that read “Any problems with Jews, please call…”
According to Evan Bernstein, New York regional director of the ADL, it is critical that law enforcement and elected officials continue to speak out about anti-Semitism, and encourage the public to report such incidents.
“We can’t allow for swastikas to become normalized in our society,” Bernstein said. “They’re symbols of hate.”
Reach reporter Carlotta Mohamed by e-mail at cmoha