Vandals Deface Queens Beach Club with Racist and Anti-Semitic Graffiti

A private beach club in the Breezy Point neighborhood of Queens, New York was forced to close its playground on the Friday before Labor Day weekend after it was vandalized with racist and anti-Semitic graffiti.

On August 30, members of the Silver Gull Beach Club received an email from the manager informing them that the club’s playground would be closed “due to the recent and increasing incidence of vandalism from within the club.” The playground was reportedly covered in racist and anti-Semitic graffiti that made references to the Holocaust.

Photos shared with The New York Times showed the words “Heil Hitler” written in large block letters, a red swastika sprayed on a white wall, and the words “gas chamber” painted on a door. Racial slurs against Black people were also visible.

Sergeant Richard Firrito, a spokesman for the US Park Police in New York, told Gothamist that “juveniles” were likely responsible for the vandalism, which police believe happened around 3:30 p.m. on August 30, while the club was still open.

The suspects are believed to have broken into the playground through a shed next to an arts and crafts pavilion, Gothamist reported. Suspects have not been identified. Firrito told The New York Times that the incident was being investigated as a bias crime.

The club’s management quickly painted over the graffiti and called the police, a club member told The New York Times. Several members expressed frustration to the newspaper over the club’s response. Michelle Freedman, whose mother survived the Holocaust, called the club’s brief email to members about the attack “inexcusable.” The incident, she said, made her feel a range of emotions, from anger to fear.

“We cannot sweep this under the rug, we have to acknowledge when these things happen and all the members of the club need to know the club doesn’t tolerate racism or anti-Semitism,” she told The New York Times.

Mike Eichenwald, who has been a member of the club for four years,added:

“The question is, how are you going to respond?

Are you going to take a stand, articulate your values, and bring people together? Or are you going to cover it up, pretend it’s of little consequence, and look the other way?”

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo condemned the vandalism, calling the act “vile” and ordering the state police’s hate crime investigators to aid in the investigation, The New York Post reported.

“Look, this is one in an alarming pattern in increases in anti-Semitic activity. We have had about an 80 percent increase in anti-Semitic attacks,” Cuomo said during the West Indian Day Parade in Brooklyn on September 2. “It is frightening. It is part of this new national anger and anxiety and frustration where we are demonizing difference.”

Cuomo attributes the trend of anti-Semitic activity to President Donald Trump, who he said has “unleashed the dogs of hatred.”

In a statement, Cuomo added that there will be “zero tolerance” for hate in New York. “Every single elected official in this state — Democrat and Republican — must come together to denounce these continued acts of hatred and attempts to intimidate and terrorize. We must also call these vile acts what they are — they are hate crimes and they are illegal,” he said.

New York City has seen a rise in hate crimes, particularly anti-Semitic attacks. According to NYPD data, during the first six months of the year, there was a 90 percent increase in anti-Semitic hate crimes recorded in the city. There have been 110 attacks in 2019 so far; 52 more incidents than in 2018.

The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) of New York/New Jersey also denounced the attack. On September 1, the ADL said that it was reaching out to local authorities about the incident.

“We are deeply disturbed by this alleged horrible graffiti in Queens which espoused the worst kind of antisemitism [and] hate,” Evan Bernstein, Regional Director of the ADL of New York/New Jersey said in a September 2 statement on Twitter.

“It threatens the reality of Jews [and] others to be able to feel secure [and] deeply impacts the community at large. NewYork is better than this.”

The club, which opened in 1963, is one of the last private beach clubs in New York City. Silver Gull, located close to Jacob Riis in the predominantly white gated community of Breezy Point, has found loyalty among white, middle-class members. According to The New York Times, members pay $5,000 a summer for cabanas, which are then passed down between family members.

About the Author

Nicole Rojas is a breaking news writer for The North Star. She has published in various publications, including Newsweek, GlobalPost, IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly, and the Long Island Post. Nicole graduated from Boston University in 2012 with a degree in print journalism. She is an avid world traveler who recently explored Asia and Australia.