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Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Riverdale rejects purveyors of hate

By Ashley Helms
Posted
Marisol Díaz/The Riverdale Press
CONGRESSMAN Eliot Engel, at right in foreground, spoke before a gathering of residents, religious leaders and elected officials at a Sunday vigil in support of Menuhin Hart, left. Unknown vandals have besmirched Mr. Hart's truck with racist graffiti. Behind Mr. Engel are state Sen. Jeff Klein, Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz and Councilman Andrew Cohen.

Concerned Riverdalians have spearheaded a fundraiser and other outreach efforts to help Menuhin Hart, a black Riverdale resident, feel more welcome in the community following racially-charged vandalism that appeared on his truck on April 4.

As of press time, the online fundraiser started by resident Shira Billet had racked up roughly $1,204 out of its $5,000 goal since going live on Monday. All proceeds will be donated to Mr. Hart to help him purchase a new paint job for his red 2011 red Dodge Ram after he discovered the words “U shood [sic] move” spray painted on its side. The indiegogo.com fundraiser will close on April 30. As of Tuesday morning, it had 37 funders.

Ms. Billet admitted that she did not dream up the idea for the fundraiser on her own, but thought it was a positive and effective way to show Mr. Hart that such an act is not acceptable in Riverdale. The fundraiser campaign is called “toward a welcoming and racially diverse Riverdale.”

“[The fundraiser] emerged in the context of a discussion on a local listserv where many Riverdalians were expressing outrage over the incident. Someone on the list suggested that perhaps raising funds to pay for the damage would be a neighborly gesture of solidarity,” Ms. Billet said.

Mr. Hart lives in the aristocratic Whitehall building at 3333 Henry Hudson Parkway. According to a police report he filed with the 50th Precinct on April 4, Mr. Hart had parked his car on Independence Avenue overnight when the vandalism occurred. The report also states that he experienced a similar act of vandalism in September. 

Mr. Hart did not return a message requesting comment as of press time.

Speaking about the incident, Rabbi Ari Hart of the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale expressed that he was shocked and saddened by what happened. He said that residents and clergy members are encouraging Mr. Hart to reach out to them.

The rabbi added that many Riverdalians were upset about what happened because they imagined that Riverdale was more tolerant of racial diversity. He said those who feel strongly about the incident are trying to reinforce the community’s inclusiveness.

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