Long Islanders soaking up the sun at Point Lookout yesterday said they were outraged to see a small plane dragging a banner bearing a swastika and promoting an organization whose goal it is to repair the reputation of a symbol most often associated with Nazi Germany.
The International Raelian Movement said it has flown the controversial banner over New York and New Jersey beaches annually since 2012 as part of its "swastika rehabilitation" movement.
The banner depicts a swastika, a peace sign, a heart and the name of the group's website. A final image shows a swastika inside the Star of David.
Jeffrey Granat, 62, of Merrick, said he was stunned to see the banner shortly after noon as he relaxed at Point Lookout with his wife.
"I can't see how this can be construed in this community as anything less than grossly offensive," Granat said.
Hempstead Town Supervisor Kate Murray said she was appalled at the banner and plans to file complaints with the Federal Aviation Administration and with the Port Authority, which controls the metropolitan area's major airports. Some of her staff members spoke with residents who said they had seen the banner.
"I am offended and disgusted at this type of hate speech," Murray said. "It has no place in our town or anywhere else for that matter."
Thomas Kaenzig, of Las Vegas, the organizer of the swastika movement, said the banner also was flown over beaches in Mastic, Each Moriches and Patchogue on Saturday, but that no flights over Long Island were planned Sunday. Similar events were held over the past week in Africa, Australia, Asia, Europe and South America, he said.
The group's goal, Kaenzig said, is to restore the swastika to its original, pre-World War II meaning of peace for Hindus and Buddhists.
"Before Hitler used it for its atrocities, the swastika was a symbol of peace and had only positive connotations," he said.
A town lifeguard at Lido Beach received one complaint from a beachgoer about the banner, town spokesman Mike Deery said. The Nassau County Police Department and State Parks Police said they had not received any complaints about the banner's contents.
David Hoffman, 57, of Bellmore, said he was "offended" to see the banner fly by twice over Point Lookout Saturday afternoon.
"I think the concept of rehabilitating the swastika is either the most naive thing I have ever heard or is a thinly veiled anti-Semitic statement," said Hoffman, noting that some beachgoers booed the plane. "You can't rehabilitate something that elicits such strong feelings."