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Swastika graffiti in Massapequa Park probed as bias crimes, cops say

A gray box, recently painted, covers where swastikas

A gray box, recently painted, covers where swastikas were spray painted in Brady Park in Massapequa, Monday, Jan. 2, 2017. Credit: Steve Pfost

Swastikas spray-painted in Massapequa Park are being investigated as bias crimes, Nassau County police said Monday.

Massapequa Park Mayor Jeffrey Pravato said the graffiti, which included two swastikas, obscenities and other symbols and writing, was discovered Saturday in Brady Park after apparently being spray-painted the night before.

“We are taking this very seriously,” Pravato said. “We are appalled.”

Pravato said the swastikas were offensive to the diverse community in Massapequa Park. Most of the graffiti had been cleaned off by Monday, Pravato said. The village has turned over to police surveillance video that appears to show youths at the scene, he said.

The incident came amid other reported anti-Semitic vandalism incidents in Long Island: Last month, a Plainview man was charged with aggravated harassment for allegedly painting swastikas at Nassau Community College in Hempstead; last month swastikas were found at a high school in Port Washington and drawn in the snow in Mineola; and on New Year’s Day, Suffolk police found a swastika on a steel beam at the Long Island Expressway’s Holbrook exit.

Evan Bernstein, New York regional director of the Anti-Defamation League, a nonprofit that advocates against anti-Semitism, said his organization has seen an “unprecedented” uptick in hate incidents since the November elections.

“One of the most common acts of hate we’ve seen is the drawing of the swastika,” Bernstein said. The graffiti “makes people very nervous. It changes their whole way of looking at their community. . . . There’s a tremendous amount of hate behind it.”

Pravato said he would like the vandals to be educated as well as prosecuted when they are caught.

“I would like to educate these perpetrators by sitting them down with a Holocaust survivor and letting them know what the Nazi symbol means, what Nazism was in this world and what it could have been,” Pravato said.

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