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Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Swastika vandal strikes again

By Tanisia Morris
Posted
Marisol Díaz/The Riverdale Press
Joe Brender, 61, points to where the swastika was burned into between first and second base on the ball field of Seton Park in the early hours of Sunday morning.

An apparent pattern of anti-Semitic vandalism continued on Sunday when softball players found swastikas on the baseball diamond at Seton Park.

Joe Brender, a softball league organizer, recognized the swastika around 9:30 a.m. and called police. 

“This is more important than playing ball,” said Mr. Brender, 61. “I think it’s an ominous sign. There are a lot of Holocaust survivors in our neighborhood, and it brings back a lot of bad memories for them. I personally won’t stand for anything like that.”

The police arrived at the scene around 9:45 a.m. and told the players that they could not play on the field because it was considered a crime scene, according to Mr. Brender. 

A witness who was sitting at Seton Park’s dog run said that police gathered around the area that had the swastika, which he believed was smoldered in the field.

“There was a lot of talking and pointing on the ground,” said the witness, who asked to not be identified. 

A truck belonging to the Department of Parks and Recreation arrived soon after and police cut out the area of the Astroturf with the hateful symbol. A traffic cone was then placed over it. 

Police referred the incident to the NYPD’s Hate Crimes unit, where the case is open to detectives.  

In a joint statement, Rep. Eliot Engel, state Senator Jeff Klein, Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz and Councilman Andrew Cohen denounced the criminal mischief, calling it “truly disturbing” and “a blight” on the neighborhood. 

“The heartless acts of bigotry must be stopped,” they said in a statement.

According to Det. Cheryl Crispin of the Office of the Deputy Commissioner, Public Information, there were 169 hate crimes reported citywide as of August 3. The department could not provide any statistics about the frequency of hate crimes in the Riverdale-Kingsbridge area this year.

But known incidents include the time on Dec. 2 when residents found swastikas carved into the artificial turf on the infield of the baseball diamond at West 232nd Street and Independence Avenue. 

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