YOU READ IT HERE FIRST: Neighbors woke up this morning to find that the area’s beloved Holocaust Memorial Park, New York City’s only public Holocaust memorial, was the target of what appears to be anti-Semitic vandalism last night.
Police responded to a call for a possible bias incident at the park, located on West End Avenue between Emmons Avenue and Shore Boulevard. A vandal had spray-painted the word “Fuck” next to a Star of David on the base of the Eternal Light – the centerpiece of the memorial – according to Councilman Michael Nelson’s chief of staff, Chaim Deutsch.
Police are currently on the scene, though it’s unclear if the incident will be investigated as a bias crime. We are awaiting a response from NYPD.
Inna Stavisky, president of the Holocaust Memorial Committee, which cares for and manages the memorial in conjunction with the Parks Department, was taken aback over the news.
“This is just another act of terrorism, of vandalism in Brooklyn, which is very very sad to hear about,” she told Sheepshead Bites.
It’s the first time Stavisky can remember that the park was targeted by hate-fueled vandals, she said. But, in 2009, Nazi-related graffiti was found just a block away.
Deutsch told us that another incident of hate-related vandalism occurred in Borough Park last night, at 1347 48th Street. A vandal painted a swastika in the building’s elevator.
UPDATE (1:00 p.m.): Midwood resident Moisey Vaysman was the first to call police about the vandalism, after stumbling upon it at approximately 9:00 a.m. Vaysman said he comes to the park twice a month to honor the memory of friends and family who perished during the Holocaust, and whose names are inscribed in the park’s stones.
“This is a big tragedy,” Vaysman said. “Millions of people were killed, and this is the memory for everybody so it never happens again.”
Vaysman said he’s seen anti-Semitic markings in the park five or six times before, but never called police. This time, though, he took action for fear that the vandals will escalate their misdeeds.
“Somebody’s trying to make trouble. The trouble next time will be more than now” if we don’t do something about it, he said.
Vaysman added that he’d like to see small battery-powered cameras installed in the park.
Councilman Nelson stopped by the site before detectives arrived, and expressed outrage at the disrespect for parkgoers.
“This area is the grave for the departed,” he said. “A lot of people come here, they pray here. This is like a punch in the heart.”
Nelson is offering a $1,000 reward “if someone comes forward and turns this degenerate in.”
In addition to the graffiti, a broken bottle and shattered glass were found at the base of the Eternal Light. On the stone itself – near where the hateful words were scrolled – two footprints were left in the graffiti, which may give detectives a lead.
“I think it’s a disgusting, horrible thing that looks like it was done by children,” said Community Board 15 Chairperson Theresa Scavo, who surveyed the scene and noticed the small size of the footprints. “It’s a disgusting thing to be done in a place like this.”
Councilman Lew Fidler sent a statement out to press, noting, “The placement of anti-Semitic graffiti at the Holocaust Memorial Park shows us graphically that the lessons of history have not been learned by all. Choosing this location is particularly hateful and shows the callous ignorance of the perpetrator.”
He added that he looks forward to an arrest and “vigorous prosecution.”
A Parks Department employee was on the scene with a power washer, and told Sheepshead Bites that the graffiti will be removed as soon as he has the green-light from investigators. He expects it will be done today.
Police have not yet ruled the incident a bias crime. As of 12:50 p.m., detectives had not yet arrived on the scene. Local detectives will determine whether or not to refer the case to the Hate Crimes Unit, said a police officer on the scene.
UPDATE (3:43 p.m.): The NYPD has confirmed that both this incident and the incident in Borough Park are being investigated as possible bias incidents and have been referred to the Hate Crimes Unit.
This is a breaking news story and may contain inaccuracies. We will update it as more information becomes available. If anyone has more information or additional photos, please send them to tips (at) sheepsheadbites (dot) com.