Twelve swastikas were drawn on the Port Washington Police Athletic League’s (PAL) clubhouse on the evening of Oct. 11. PAL treasurer, Rob Nachimson discovered the hateful graffiti on Monday evening and immediately called Rob Elkins, executive director of the PAL.
Elkins stated that the clubhouse has been broken into several times, but nothing had been stolen or vandalized previously. The PAL changed the locks and the doors to the clubhouse following those incidents. But on Oct. 11, the vandals ripped the door off with such force that the frame came off the building. Elkins stated that he was “horrified and in shock” when he saw the graffiti himself on Monday evening. Swastikas were spray painted all throughout the building covering both sides of the front door, the lawn tractor, several pieces of athletic equipment and the walls of the boy’s bathroom and so on throughout the building.
“I walked inside and saw this incredible vandalism and defacement of our property, literally spray painting over handmade thank you cards that our scholarship summer campers made for us this past summer,” Elkins said. “Just mindless destruction of a card drawn in crayon by an 8 year old saying ‘thank you for such a wonderful summer,’ and it gets a swastika painted on it.”
Elkins believes this is retaliation from a previous act of hate that took place several weeks ago, when a white power and gang sign was spray painted on one of the light poles on the field. Elkins stated that he contacted the Port Washington Police Department immediately after this incident.
“We waited for them to take some sort of reaction to it or contact us,” Elkins said. “When three weeks went by and we weren’t contacted I said ‘enough is enough. I went over to Alper’s and I bought a can of red spray paint and I sprayed over all of the graffiti that was on the pad. Less than a week after that is when the break in into the clubhouse occurred. To me that was a direct reaction to me painting over the graffiti.”
Port Washington Police Chief Robert Del Muro initially told Newsday on Oct. 14 that the Port Washington Police District would not be treating this case as a hate crime, but released an amended statement the following morning.
“I apologize that my position regarding the egregious hate crime perpetrated at the Port Washington Athletic League building was not stated more clearly,” Del Muro said.
“Unquestionable, a swastika is a deplorable symbol of hate. I attempted to explain that this hate crime differs from many others in that the symbols were placed in the interior of the building, rather than on the exterior, and were painted using materials that were already in the building and were accessed after the building was burglarized. Of course, that does not diminish that this hate crime is being actively and throughly investigated by our agency and we will tirelessly pursue the perpetrators.”
Town of North Hempstead Supervisor Judi Bosworth and Councilwoman Mariann Dalimonte both released a statements following the news of this hate crime.
“The town emphatically condemns these horrific acts,” Bosworth said. “Threatening a group of people based on their religion, race, ethnicity or sexual orientation will not be tolerated. 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.”
Senator Anna Kaplan also visited the PAL clubhouse on Oct. 15 to view the damage done to the clubhouse.
“The anti-Semitic hate crime that took place in Port Washington this weekend, where several enormous swastikas were spray-painted throughout a youth athletic facility, is unequivocally an anti-Semitic hate crime, and I’m relieved that Chief Del Muro agrees, and has clarified his statement so that the community can have faith that this horrendous act will be thoroughly and properly investigated as a hate crime. Port Washington is an inclusive, welcoming and loving community,” Kaplan said. “We all stand together to denounce this horrendous crime that has been perpetrated against us, and the law enforcement community has our full support in seeing that justice is served.”
Elkins stated that he hopes this hate crime will be treated seriously by the police department and is also hoping this incident will encourage the Port Washington School District to drive home the message that hate is not tolerable in Port Washington.
“It’s one thing to educate the community and explain to younger children what the symbol really means and how hateful and hurtful it is,” Elkins said. “But it’s another thing to drive home the message that it’s 100 percent intolerable in this community and I don’t think that message has gotten out.”
A GoFundMe page was set up by Danielle Elkins and received more than $13,000 in less than 24 hours. The GoFundMe has a goal of $25,000, which they are hoping will help to replace, repair and restore the destroyed equipment. The GoFundMe page can be found by visiting www.gofundme.com/f/the-port-washington-pal-antihate-response-fund.
Anyone with information regarding this hate crime is asked to contact the Port Washington Detective unit at 516-833-0500.