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Plainview residents counter bias graffiti with messages of love

Aidan Davis, 12 years old, son of Rebecca

Aidan Davis, 12 years old, son of Rebecca Davis who organized the event, scene writing on Sunday messages of tolerance at Haypath Park in Old Bethpage to counter anti-Semitic graffiti discovered there the previous day. on Feb. 26, 2017 Credit: Newsday / Ted Phillips

A group of Plainview residents on Sunday wrote messages of tolerance at Haypath Park in Old Bethpage to counter anti-Semitic graffiti discovered there the previous day.

The graffiti, drawn in chalk on a sidewalk at the park, had been cleaned up by the Oyster Bay Parks Department Saturday evening, Oyster Bay Councilwoman Rebecca Alesia said.

On Sunday afternoon, more than 50 children and adults had shown up at the park to write their own messages in chalk.

“It’s a teachable moment for the kids … that we can’t tolerate this kind of hate,” said organizer Rebecca Davis, 47, a Plainview mother and legal administrator for a private company.

Children and adults drew and wrote on the sidewalk in pastel blues, oranges, yellows, greens and reds. They left words like “Peace” and “Together,” and chalked messages such as: “We Are All Human.”

Allison Biren, 10, drew a blue globe filled with people.

“I’m drawing the earth with people holding hands together to show that everyone is friends and there should be peace in the world,” Allison said.

Her mother, Jennifer Biren, 42, a social worker from Old Bethpage, said the community is peaceful.

“When things do happen, we try to show that we’re united together against hatred,” she said.

Will Matlin, 45, an attorney from Old Bethpage, came with his two daughters, 9 and 11.

“It’s important to give a prompt response to any signs of hate,” Matlin said. He said when he first heard about the graffiti on Saturday he had a mixed reaction, thinking it may have been the work of children.

“On further reflection it doesn’t matter if it was kids or adults. It doesn’t matter if they didn’t know better,” Matlin said. “What matters is it can’t be tolerated.”

Oyster Bay Town Supervisor Joseph Saladino arrived shortly before 1:30 p.m. Addressing a group of children, Saladino said, “I want to thank you all for being here and doing the right thing.”

Saladino then crouched down and drew a heart with an infinity symbol.

“There is no tolerance for hate in the town of Oyster Bay,” Saladino said. “I’m so thankful the community has come out to teach our children a lesson of love and respect for one another.”

Nassau County police were not called and are not investigating the incident, a police spokesman said Sunday. But Saladino said the people responsible for the offensive graffiti should be brought to justice and he added he would address it Monday with law enforcement authorities.

Davis said the messages and drawings discovered on Saturday were obscene and contained threats against Jews.

“It’s particularly shocking because Plainview is known as a very tolerant community,” Alesia said.

Alesia pointed out that Plainview is an religiously and ethnically diverse community, with many churches, synagogues and a Sikh temple.

“Traditionally we’ve lived side-by-side in harmony and defended one another, so when you see this type of divisive hate language come up ... in a park where our children play, it’s devastating,” she said.

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