Grave graffiti in Gravesend

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Swastika graffiti on an American Legion building in Gravesend has locals concerned that religiously charged hate crimes are on the rise.

The faint, gray graffiti on the side of the Marlboro Memorial Post 1437 of the American Legion is almost indistinguishable from the brick building’s mortar — but the Nazi symbol sends a very clear, cruel message to locals, especially the veterans who fought against the Third Reich in World War II.

“We still have men from the war,” said Joe Esposito, the Commander at the post, who said he has never dealt with an incident like this before. “It bothers them — it bothers everyone.”

Because the graffiti is faint, and on the side of the building, Esposito said he isn’t sure how long it has been there before he noticed it, but he said as soon as he heard about it, he reported it to Councilman Mark Treyger (D–Coney Island), who put in a complaint with the 61st Precinct. Treyger said the precinct should investigate it as a hate crime.

“We want this to be treated as a hate incident,” said Treyger, who recently participated in a joint press conference on the steps of City Hall about the rise of hate crimes against Jews.

But Treyger said there have also been an increase in hate crimes against Muslims.

“We’ve seen a spike in a lot of hate incidents — anti-Semitic, but also hate against Muslims,” he said.

In early September, a man was charged with hate crimes after allegedly attacking a Pakistani family in Marine Park. A few days later in Bay Ridge, Linda Sarsour, director of the Arab American Association of New York, was chased down the street by a vagrant threatening to cut off her head. Sarsour later complained that it took police 45 minutes to respond to her frantic 911 call.

To combat these hate crimes, Treyger said the city must make it very clear that all hate crimes are unacceptable.

“There is a zero tolerance policy we have to enforce,” said Treyger.

Treyger said that to prevent further hateful vandalism, the neighborhood has to realize hate that crimes against any religion or ethnicity hurts the whole community.

“My position is that we have to build community solidarity to say this is an act against everyone,” said Treyger.

Soon after it was reported, the swastika has been removed by an anti-graffiti task force run by the city’s Economic Development Corporation.

Reach reporter Vanessa Ogle at or by calling (718) 260–4507. Follow her
Updated 11:48 am, January 16, 2019
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