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Bayside Korean church vandalized on Christmas

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A group of holiday carolers was greeted with racist vandalism early Christmas morning in Bayside when they returned to Grace Korean Presbyterian Church, police said.

Between 10 and 20 people from the Grace Korean Presbyterian Church at 216-50 28th Ave. had been caroling around the church’s northern Bayside neighborhood before returning to the church at about 1:30 a.m. Wednesday morning, Pastor Yon Kwon said last week. The Grace Korean Presbyterian Church has been on 28th Avenue since 1994.

The group, which Kwon said included high school students, teachers and church pastors, returned to find racist comments spray-painted in red on the door and wall of the church as well as a broken windshield of a car sitting in front of the house of worship, according to police.

Anti-Asian remarks were also written on the hood of the damaged car, which had a brick thrown through its windshield, police said. Kwon said it was the second act of vandalism against the church in roughly a year, but no arrests had been made in the incidents.

He also said there was no other history of vandalism at the church.

The 111th Precinct in Bayside could not be reached for comment on the incidents.

City Councilman Tony Avella (D-Bayside) was scheduled to meet with church officials Monday afternoon about the vandalism.

The Grace Korean Presbyterian incident was the latest in a series of vandalism against church property in Queens.

On consecutive days last year, St. Gregory the Great Church in Bellerose had a statue of its patron saint toppled, while Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament in Bayside was covered with anti-Catholic graffiti.

The 7-foot-tall marble statue of St. Gregory was found in pieces Aug. 31 in front of the church’s school where it had stood since 1964. In Bayside Monsignor John Mahoney of Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament was awakened by police at 5 a.m. Sept. 1 to find graffiti relating to the recent priest sex-abuse scandal sprayed across the front of the church.

On Sept. 25, several pupils discovered the remnants of a large crucifix on the ground in front of the St. Clare Catholic Church in Rosedale. Monsignor James Cooney, a priest at St. Clare for the past six years, said a city trash can was apparently used to knock the statue of Christ from a large cross positioned near the sidewalk.

“It was very disturbing,” Kwon said of the vandalism. “What saddens us especially is that we know racism is out there, but this location — in a place like this, we believed we were fairly safe.”

Civic leader Blanche Felton, head of the John Golden Park Block Association, praised the church as a valued member of the community.

“They are a wonderful group of people,” said Felton, whose civic uses the church as a meeting place. “Over the years we have developed a real solid relationship.”

Felton said the church has been a good neighbor, offering college scholarships to nearby residents and reaching out to the civic when it needed help with traffic concerns.

After learning about the graffiti, Felton said, “I’m sickened by it. I think it’s totally offensive.”

Kwon said the church, which draws members from throughout Queens as well as parts of New Jersey and Long Island, moved into the neighborhood when the Bayside Yacht Club went bankrupt and the church purchased that group’s property.

The pastor said his church has donated money to the nearby St. Mary’s Hospital for Children and maintained positive relations with both Felton’s civic and the residents of Bayside Gables, a smaller neighborhood.

“I believe the relationship is fairly good,” said Kwon, who said approximately a year ago someone threw something into the church sanctuary during services, breaking a window. “We all hope that it’s not the opening of the floodgates.”

Reach reporter Kathianne Boniello by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 157.

Updated 10:25 am, October 12, 2011
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