Brooklyn Heights

Antisemitic vandalism defaces home of Brooklyn Museum’s Pasternak in Brooklyn Heights

June 12, 2024 Mary Frost
A co-op building in Brooklyn Heights was vandalized with red spray paint and a sign reading, “ANNE PASTERNAK BROOKLYN MUSEUM WHITE-SUPREMACIST ZIONIST.” Photo: Mary Frost, Brooklyn Eagle
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BROOKLYN HEIGHTS —Residents of Brooklyn Heights woke up Wednesday morning to discover that a co-op building in their neighborhood had been vandalized overnight with antisemitic remarks targeted at Brooklyn Museum Director Anne Pasternak.

Red spray paint was splattered on windows, pillars, a walkway and front door, and a sign with bloody handprints strung across the entrance reading, “ANNE PASTERNAK BROOKLYN MUSEUM WHITE-SUPREMACIST ZIONIST.”

In small print under this were the words, “FUNDS GENOCIDE.”

Police from the 84th Precinct blocked off the front of the stately Mansion House building on Hicks Street with crime scene tape and stood guard at the entrance all morning. An NYPD spokesperson told the Brooklyn Eagle that police were “actively investigating” the incident.

Police from the 84th Precinct blocked off the front of the Mansion House co-op building on Hicks Street with crime scene tape and stood guard at the entrance. Photo: Mary Frost, Brooklyn Eagle

The building damage appears to be part of an escalation by a pro-Palestinian group that has been protesting at the museum, which the group connects to Israel’s assault on Palestinians in Gaza. The group “Within Our Lifetime” is demanding that the institution divest from any investments linked to Israel’s campaign. Dozens were recently arrested after damaging some artwork in the museum’s lobby.

“We are deeply troubled by these horrible acts,” said a Brooklyn Museum spokesperson.

The homes of other Jewish board members of the Brooklyn Museum were also defaced across the city.

Sen. Chuck Schumer shared photos of the defaced Brooklyn Heights co-op on the floor of the Senate Wednesday, saying the vile antisemitism made him sick to his stomach. Screengrab courtesy of video from Schumer’s Office.

“I come to the floor this morning sick to my stomach and profoundly disturbed by pictures that were shared with me … of yet another antisemitic act in New York,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said Wednesday in a speech on the Senate floor. “Jewish Americans made to feel unsafe in their own home – just because they are Jewish. This is not even close to free speech. This is intimidation. It is scapegoating. It is dehumanization. Invasive attacks loaded with the threat of looming violence. It is vile. It is nasty. It is un-American.”

Locals said they were shocked by the vandalism and by the personal attack on a neighbor.

Cindi Leive, journalist, and founder of The Meteor (left) and Anne Pasternak, president of The Brooklyn Museum (right). Eagle photo by Beth Eisgrau-Heller

“It’s very scary. We’ve always felt safe in the neighborhood,” said Kathryn Falk, a long-time resident who lives in a building facing the back of the defaced residence. “My friend notified me about it at 6 a.m. She said they spray-painted the security cameras and painted the windows.” She added, “Anne’s a wonderful person.” 

“I heard they did this to a bunch of the staff of the Brooklyn Museum, but I didn’t realize it was literally on my street,” said another neighbor, who did not want her name used. She said she first heard of the vandalism on X (Twitter) in a tweet by Amy Spitalnick, CEO of the JCPA.

“Last night, the homes of the Brooklyn Museum director and multiple Jewish board members were vandalized. Make no mistake: this is vile antisemitism and it is making Jews — and everyone — unsafe,” Spitalnick had tweeted.

A man who lives on the next block told the Eagle, “It’s getting out of hand. I was just here yesterday visiting friends. I don’t think it’s right — it’s shocking.”

A Brooklyn Heights neighbor said of the Mansion House antisemitism, “It’s nasty, and it’s a crime! The issues here are complicated … but there are other ways to handle disagreements.” Photo: Mary Frost, Brooklyn Eagle

Not winning any converts to the cause

The group’s hate-filled graffiti did not win them any converts in the progressive neighborhood.

The Brooklyn Heights Association strongly condemns the antisemitic vandalism discovered this morning targeting the homes of Brooklyn Museum officials throughout the city, including an apartment building in our neighborhood,” the organization said in a statement Wednesday morning.

“Attempts to intimidate and frighten Brooklyn Museum staff, their neighbors and our community at large cannot be considered peaceful protest,” BHA added. “We call on our elected officials and community partners to stand with us in condemning these hateful acts, and we thank those who have already spoken out.”

Pro-Palestinian protesters had also disrupted the BHA’s Annual Meeting in March.

Councilmember Lincoln Restler (D-Brooklyn Heights, Greenpoint) commented on Facebook, “Disgusting and horrible incident of vandalism happened overnight in Brooklyn Heights and at a couple other locations affiliated with the Brooklyn Museum. This anti-Semitic incident is despicable.

Police have launched an investigation into the antisemitic vandalism at the Mansion House where Brooklyn Museum’s board chair Anne Pasternak lives. Brooklyn Museum’s Jewish board members across the city were targeted. Photo: Mary Frost, Brooklyn Eagle

“I visited the co-op this morning and spoke to NYPD, board members and staff. There is video footage and PD is actively investigating,” Restler added. “This vandalism and attack on people’s home is indefensible and counterproductive. My team and I will do whatever we can to help keep our community safe.”

“The cowards who did this are way over the line into antisemitism, harming the cause they claim to care about, and making everyone less safe,” Comptroller Brad Lander wrote on X Wednesday.

Even neighbors who see both sides of the highly-charged issue were unhappy with the property damage and personal attack on a resident’s home.

“It’s nasty, and it’s a crime! The issues here are complicated, and I’m sympathetic to the high emotions on every side, but there are other ways to handle disagreements, a woman told the Eagle.”

Check back; this story will be updated as the investigation proceeds.

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