Vandals spray-painted 12 swastikas after breaking into the Port Washington Police Athletic League’s Sunset Park clubhouse over the weekend, according to PAL Executive Director Rob Elkins.
“Sometime late Sunday evening, like after 10 p.m. on Sunday, somebody broke into our clubhouse,” Elkins said in an interview. “When I say broken, they literally broke the back door to the point where when they yanked it open, they took it off the frame of the building.”
Elkins says that the vandals then found a can of red spray paint in the clubhouse and sprayed swastikas “all over the inside of the building, on-field equipment, on balls and bats, on the bathroom walls, on our tractor, and on the front door to the building.”
“It was Sunday night of Columbus Day weekend,” Elkins said. “So my guess is it was, you know, local kids who didn’t have to be in school the next day, and it was raining, so they decided that they couldn’t hang out outdoors. They might as well be indoors.”
“What’s equally disturbing about it is they had no way of knowing when they broke into the building that there was gonna be a can of spray paint there,” he said. “They broke in, discovered the spray paint, and then did all this. So I don’t know what else they were thinking when they broke into the building and what their intentions were.”
The graffiti was discovered on Monday around 6 p.m. by the PAL treasurer, Rob Nachimsom, Elkins said.
“He had to drop off some papers and he called me,” Elkins said. “He says, ‘You’re not gonna believe this, but somebody put a swastika around the door.’”
Elkins said he first saw it for himself around 10 p.m. Monday and called the Port Washington Police District the next morning.
Chief Robert Del Muro of the police district said in a phone interview that the incident was “under investigation.”
Elkins added that he intends to call the Nassau County Police Department and report the graffiti as a hate crime.
“Twelve swastikas is a hate crime,” Elkins said.
He says that the symbols came “four to six weeks” after he found “a white power message” written on one of the poles on the field that neighbors the clubhouse and that he sprayed over it.
“I thought the problem was done,” Elkins said. “So apparently what I did was I triggered some sort of reaction from somebody. It might have been retaliatory.”
Port Washington school board President Nora Johnson condemned the graffiti at the board’s meeting on Tuesday night.
“It is clear that we have to do something and we have to do everything we can in this town to combat racism, anti-Semitism and all forms of hate,” Johnson said.
Town of North Hempstead Supervisor Judi Bosworth and Town Councilwoman Mariann Dalimonte (D-Port Washington) also condemned the act in statements to Blank Slate Media.
“Threatening a group of people based on their religion, race, ethnicity, or sexual orientation will not be tolerated,” Bosworth said. “Such actions are not only immoral, but they are criminal as well. We at the Town of North Hempstead will continue to promote messages of inclusivity, and we look forward to continuing to partner with the community in our advocacy efforts.”
“What happened at the PAL clubhouse was truly heartbreaking,” Dalimonte said. “I emphatically condemn these appalling acts of hate and intolerance. Port Washington is a wonderful and diverse community, and these types of actions have absolutely no place here. The Port Washington Police Department has been working diligently on this matter, and I am confident that they will use all available resources to thoroughly investigate this crime.”
State Sen. Anna Kaplan (D-Great Neck), whose district includes Port Washington, said in a statement to Blank Slate Media: “I’m disgusted by the despicable and cowardly act of anti-Semitic, racist vandalism that took place at the Port Washington PAL clubhouse this weekend. We must never accept anti-Semitism and hate in our community in any form, and we must always work to eradicate it when we find it in our midst.
“I’ve asked Gov. Andrew Cuomo to provide additional support from the State Police to ensure that this attack is thoroughly investigated and I’m grateful for his steadfast support to ensure that those responsible are brought to justice.”
Elkins said that the best-case scenario would be that the perpetrators were “local kids.”
“What I’m hoping is that it’s teenagers, young adults that simply don’t understand the message that they’re posting, other than that they know what’s going to set people off,” Elkins said. “If that’s it, then what are you thinking? Why would you do this? Do you have any idea what the symbols mean? And if you don’t, talk to your grandparents, who probably fought in World War II and ask them what they mean.”
He added that “it’s scary to think that it’s a deliberate message.”
“I just don’t want to believe that kind of thing exists in Port Washington,” Elkins said.