EXCLUSIVE: Swastikas scar Williamsburg street
One family fights back against hate
For years, a North Brooklyn block was tarnished with swastikas carved into the concrete sidewalk.
Thousands of commuters entering the Grand Street subway station were forced to step over the hate symbols — four of them, to be exact — on their daily commute.
“After trying our hardest to take care of the removal through the proper governmental authorities and receiving no response, I could no longer bear to step over the swastikas every single night on my way home,” said Shayna, 23, a neighborhood resident who asked that her surname be omitted for fear of reprisal from the city.
Shayna moved to Williamsburg in September and immediately noticed the swastikas, but the merchant who owns the store next to the marred pavement said the symbols had been there for at least two years.
Shayna made numerous attempts to contact city agencies and elected officials, but the complaints fell on deaf ears.
The 10 different government agencies that did not initially return her calls included 311, 911, the NYPD Hate Crimes Unit, the 90th Precinct, the Williamsburg Police Community Relations Department, Sen. Chuck Schumer’s office, Mayor Bill de Blasio’s office, U.S. Rep Nydia Velasquez’s office, Borough President Eric Adams’ office and Councilmember Chaim Deutsch’s office.
“I think it is important that our government takes these kinds of hateful vandalisms seriously and takes responsibility for their removal,” Shayna told the Brooklyn Eagle.
“Swastikas are a symbol of hate for so many communities, including my Jewish community, and in light of the explosion of anti-Semitism in these last few weeks and the pervasive racism and xenophobia in this country, I decided to take matters into my own hands.”
Armed with Stop Leak, silicone rubber cement and silver spray paint, Shayna set out to cover the swastikas with the help of her mother and father, who previously worked in construction.
Despite her attempts to contact the agencies and offices listed above, only Councilmember Deutsch’s office responded — but not until Monday, days after she had covered up the swastikas.
The entire project took several hours to complete, and the family made sure to wait until the sidewalk was dry so that no one else could re-vandalize the area.
“The total personal cost was around $50, but money is not what I am concerned about,” Shayna told the Eagle. “I think it is important we shine light on events like this. Silence helps nothing.”
A Disturbing Trend
Following the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting on Oct. 27, there has been a string of anti-Semitic attacks across Brooklyn.
Most recently, a group of teens was caught on video throwing a metal pipe through a Williamsburg synagogue window on Saturday.
A day before, James Polite, a young man with a history of mental illness and drug addiction, was arrested by police for writing “Die Jew Rats” and “Hitler” on the walls of the Union Temple of Brooklyn in Prospect Heights on Nov. 1. Polite was also charged with setting seven fires in the Hasidic Jewish area of Williamsburg.
On Oct. 30, two teens drew swastikas and a racial slur on five buildings on Garden Place in Brooklyn Heights. They turned themselves in on Monday after photos of the suspects were released to the public.
Nationally, anti-Semitic attacks have been on the rise. The Anti-Defamation League identified 1,985 anti-Semitic incidents in America in 2017, up from 1,267 in 2016.
At press time, Schumer, de Blasio and Velazquez’s offices did not yet respond to requests for comment.
Follow reporter Scott Enman on Twitter.
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