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Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Vandals carve swastikas in park turf

By Shant Shahrigian
Posted
Marisol Díaz/The Riverdale Press
Zachary Tallerman, 11, plays in Seton Park baseball diamond’s infield, where swastikas were found and later removed, on Dec. 5.

The Department of Parks and Recreation removed two swastikas carved into the artificial turf on the infield of the baseball diamond at Seton Park less than 24 hours after the vandalism was reported on Dec. 2. 

Recognizing the roughly two-by-two-foot symbols to be swastikas, 11-year-old Caleb Auerbach immediately called his mother, Vicki Auerbach.

Speaking at the field on Dec. 5, Ms. Auerbach said she encouraged her son to call 311. That led to other phone calls, with six police officers arriving by 4 p.m.

“I said, you tell me what you want to do, if you want to call the police,” Ms. Auerbach said. “This one has a really good moral compass,” she said of her son.

The police referred the act of criminal mischief to the NYPD’s Hate Crimes unit, where the case is still open to detectives.

The Parks Department removed the swastikas by about 12:30 p.m. the following day.

“What I felt was a mixture of emotions — terrified because of what’s happening in Brooklyn,” Caleb said in reference to last month’s anti-Semitic attacks in the borough, “scared, just remembering some of my family was in the Holocaust, and basically really worried that it’s here.”
While authorities have not identified suspects, Caleb and his friends speculated other children committed the vandalism.

 

“They’re just trying to look cool by drawing” the swastikas, said Richie Gonzalez, who is also 11. “But they shouldn’t be drawing it because it’s hurting people.”

On Dec. 4, the last night of Hanukkah, area religious leaders organized a candle lighting ceremony at Seton Park just steps away from the site of the vandalism.

“When there’s darkness in the world, the way to respond is with light,” said Rabbi Avi Hart of the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale. He added that about 60 residents came to the ceremony, where Rabbi Hart, an imam from Masjid Al-Imam mosque in Parkchester and a representative from Christ Church of Riverdale spoke along with the boys who discovered the swastikas.

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