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Bellerose grapples with graffiti

A police vehicle drives down 87th Avenue in Bellerose, passing a car with a swastika painted on the rear. Photo by Christina Santucci
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Neighbors in Bellerose are hoping they can turn an act of hate into a teachable moment after finding swastikas scrawled on parked cars throughout the area.

Residents woke up to nearly 20 cars throughout a four-block radius near 87th Avenue and Little Neck Parkway plastered with dark graffiti early last Friday morning — four of which were vandalized with swastikas. The crime prompted a full-on investigation with help from the 105th Precinct and elected officials took to those same streets Wednesday to urge the community to educate their children on exactly why such vandalism will not be tolerated.

At least one elected official and some neighbors have speculated that teens were responsible for the graffiti.

“Hate crimes and vandalism have no place in our neighborhoods,” said state Assemblyman David Weprin (D-Little Neck), who led a press conference in outrage over the use of the Nazi symbol. “It is essential that we do all we can to put an end to these disgraceful acts of intolerance.”

Weprin plugged Holocaust remembrance programs throughout the borough, including one at the Kupferberg Holocaust Center at nearby Queensborough Community College, as a means for residents to keep the history relevant so such hateful vandalism does not happen again.

A spokesman for the 105th Precinct said police and hate crime task force were looking into who might be responsible for the crime, but could not confirm whether or not one or multiple suspects were involved.

State Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside) said his office received several phone calls last week after residents saw similar graffiti doodles scrawled on parked cars throughout the area. He said he would be working with the NYPD to help find who might have done it so they could possibly face hate crime charges.

Mike Castellano, president of the Lost Community Civic, said he and his Bellerose neighbors were growing tired of the unwanted street vandalism.

“This isn’t just graffiti,” he said. “This takes it a step above and beyond. We can’t have stuff like this happening in our community.”

Members of the Bellerose community stood together late last year after a similar incident swept through their streets when several parked cars were found damaged with windshield wipers twisted and torn off. Residents have been calling for more police support in the area for years and widely favored the splitting of the 105th Precinct to alleviate limited resources.

Assemblywoman Barbara Clark (D-Queens Village) said she has signed onto several pieces of legislation that would crack down on such a hate crime, strengthening penalties against similar acts of vandalism. She joined with Weprin and other officials, including former city Councilwoman and candidate for Borough President Melinda Katz, in promoting education as a means to combat any future incidents.

“It is appalling that anyone would commit such a bold act of intolerance and disruption,” she said. “I am proud to represent one of the most diverse Assembly districts in New York City and stand with my colleague, Assemblyman David Weprin, and the members of the civic association in our districts to say that this behavior is unacceptable.”

Reach reporter Phil Corso by e-mail at pcorso@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4573.

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