The 111th Precinct, along with Community Board 11 members and representatives from elected officials’ offices, held a “Take Back the Park” outreach meeting on Feb. 4 after finding anti-Semitic graffiti at Marie Curie Park in Bayside two weeks prior.
“This is to gather around to let everyone know what’s going on and that we take this very seriously,” said Capt. John Portalatin, the precinct’s commanding officer. “Any type of graffiti is unacceptable in this precinct. We will catch you and we will prosecute you to the full extent of the law in regards to that.”
On Friday, Jan. 24, the NYPD responded to a 2:30 p.m. call for graffiti on the 211th Street entrance sign to the park. Officers covered the sign within 30 minutes of the report, and the Parks Department removed the sign the next day and is planning on replacing it with a new one.
Sgt. Joseph Saviano, the 111th’s neighborhood coordination officer supervisor, explained that the “Take Back the Park” initiative, implemented borough-wide, aims to make parks safe for patrons.
“They wanted us to concentrate on gangs, and drugs and guns,” said Saviano. “Thank God we don’t have that problem here. When this came up, we figured it would be a good opportunity to bring the community together.”
“I blame a lot of what happened on just ignorance,” continued Saviano. “My grandfather is a World War II veteran and fought the Germans ... and he always said to me, ‘Joseph, if people stop talking about stuff, then they’ll forget about it.’ So when something like this happens, it just shows me how ignorant people still are for being anti-Semitic in 2020.”
The site of the graffiti is attached to Marie Curie Middle School, which had recently made headlines for sexual assault and physical bullying among students.
“We’re never going to accept anti-Semitism or any kind of hate or crime against anybody’s race, religion or nationality. This is not acceptable,” said CB 11 Chairperson Eileen Miller. “Like you said, there is no drugs [in Bayside], but by us being proactive in coming out here, we’re going to prevent these drug people from even getting in our neighborhoods.”
The officers did not reveal if they had any suspects for the hate crime, but as the investigation continues, Portalatin reassured the community that graffiti in the 111th is taken as seriously as any other crime.
“If you see it, please call 911 right away. We will be there to lock the individual up and make sure this doesn’t happen again. Graffiti is unacceptable in this command,” he said. “We take pride in our parks and our clean area and how beautiful Bayside is. We’ll do everything we can to keep it that way.”