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Police investigating 2 swastikas, other graffiti found at Nassau Holocaust center

The Holocaust Memorial & Tolerance Center of Nassau

The Holocaust Memorial & Tolerance Center of Nassau County in Glen Cove on Aug. 17. Credit: Yeong-Ung Yang

Police are investigating a second incident in two weeks of graffiti — including two swastikas this time — on the grounds of a Holocaust educational center in Glen Cove, police said Thursday.

Glen Cove police Det. Lt. John Nagle said four pieces of graffiti were found on a tree and a rock on the 203-acre grounds of the Holocaust Memorial & Tolerance Center of Nassau County. The graffiti included two swastikas, one on the tree and another on the rock along trails on the grounds, he said.

"We are investigating this as a hate crime," Nagle said. 

The latest graffiti marked the first occurrence of anti-Semitic graffiti since the center opened in the early 1990s, said Deborah Lom, the director of development. It was discovered Tuesday and police believe it was accomplished sometime between Monday and Tuesday afternoon.

The incident follows the discovery of graffiti, including a racial slur, on the grounds of the center and at the nearby Webb Institute on Nov. 24. Some of that graffiti was scrawled on a brick retaining wall of the children's memorial garden at the site. Neither incident of graffiti was on the center building itself, police said.

"It made it very shocking," Lom said. "It really hits home."

Center officials are talking about increasing security on the site, she said. Police said they regularly patrolled the area.

Nagle said he suspected the two incidents of graffiti were done by two different individuals or groups. The latest one — which also included a vulgar drawing of a man's anatomy — looks to be done in a different style and paint color, he said.

The Holocaust center is a nonprofit that since the early 1990s has leased property from Nassau at the county-owned Welwyn Preserve. Police say several outbuildings on the grounds have become magnets for graffiti artists over the years, but these latest crimes show that the artists are moving out from beyond those buildings into the surrounding wooded areas.

"The buildings are a kind of proving ground or training center for these artists," Nagle said. "I'm using the term artists loosely."

County Executive Laura Curran says Nassau "has a zero-tolerance policy for bigotry."

"This brazen act of vandalism targeting the Holocaust Memorial and Tolerance Center of Nassau County is not an isolated incident, and we take it very seriously," Curran said in a statement. "We must never allow hateful acts, whether they come in the form of graffiti or violence, to find comfort in our communities."

State Sen. Jim Gaughran (D-Northport) said he would convene an Anti-Hate Task Force comprised of elected officials, law enforcement, religious leaders, and educators to address "this pattern of hateful behavior."

“This pattern of offensive and anti-Semitic defacement is horrifying, hateful, and illegal," Gaughran said in a statement. "We will be looking at solutions from the state level to address and end this climate of hate.”

State Sen. Todd Kaminsky (D-Long Beach) called for passage of his legislation requiring all students in New York's middle and high schools be educated about the "hateful and intolerant history of the swastika and noose."

The graffiti at the Holocaust center "is extremely disturbing and the need for this legislation grows more evident by the day,” Kaminsky said in a statement “It is imperative that this legislation be a priority this session to ensure that we educate our children on the repugnant meanings behind the swastika as a symbol of bigotry and intolerance.”

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