Bronx pols denounce and respond to second incident of racist graffiti in Riverdale park

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State Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz denounces the anti-Black graffiti that was found for the second consecutive weekend in a Riverdale park.
Photo Jason Cohen

For the second consecutive weekend, racist graffiti was found in a Riverdale playground.

On Tuesday, Bronx elected officials and community leaders gathered in Riverdale to address the graffiti, denounce bigotry and call for a thorough investigation. On Feb. 12, families at Spuyten Duyvil Playground were greeted by a significant amount of anti-Black graffiti all over playground equipment, park signs and other park elements. Then on Sunday, Feb. 20, more racist graffiti was found on a sign for the Bruce Silverman Athletic Fields at Seton Park. Antisemitic graffiti was also found on the dumpsters across from the Riverdale Jewish Center this past weekend, but it was quickly removed.

As soon as the graffiti was discovered, Councilman Eric Dinowitz, a Riverdale Progressive, contacted the city Parks Department and the NYPD. The Parks Department removed the graffiti that same day. The police from the 50th Precinct and the NYPD’s Hate Crimes Task Force are investigating the two incidents. The investigations are ongoing.

“When my son asked me what the word (N***) meant it was very difficult explaining it to him,” the councilman said at the press conference. “To explain that to him was one of the more difficult decisions I’ve had as a father.”

According to NYPD stats, hate crimes are up 75% between January 2021 and January 2022, with antisemitic incidents increasing by 275%.

After a man vandalized four synagogues last year in Riverdale, Dinowitz said people need to be educated about other cultures and taught not to hate. The councilman plans to create a coalition made up of rabbis and community leaders to work together to address hatred.

“Some people might say it’s easy to write it off as graffiti, but there’s pain in words,” he said.

State Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz, a Riverdale Democrat, said he would like to see more of a police presence near parks in Riverdale and will see if it is feasible to put cameras there as well. Dinowitz recently witnessed antisemitism firsthand when a gubernatorial candidate Republican Rob Astorino held an anti-vax rally outside of the Assemblyman’s office in November where a protester had a sign with a Swastika and in December, a second anti-vax rally was held outside of his home in Riverdale where protesters held a sign that said, “No Jab – No Entry? I did Nazi that coming.”

The racist graffiti found at Seton Park in Riverdale on Sunday, Feb. 20. Photo courtesy Councilman Eric Dinowitz Twitter

This continuous spread of hate sends the wrong message about Bronxites, and does not represent who they are, Bronx Borough President Vanessa Gibson said. Moreover, to have this bigotry take place during Black History Month really hurts, she added.

“There’s no room for hate and discrimination in our city and borough,” said Gibson.

Members of the Muslim and Jewish community also voiced their disgust about what took place. Mehnaz Afridi, director of the Holocaust, Genocide and Interfaith Education Center at Manhattan College, remembered when former President Donald Trump implemented a Muslim ban and her 8-year-old daughter was terrified that her mom would be taken from her.

In 2017, Trump issued a ban on travel to the United States for citizens of Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. On Jan. 20, 2021, President Joe Biden issued a proclamation revoking the Trump travel bans.

Afridi understands firsthand how painful rhetoric can be and said no one should ever take hate speech lightly.

“To have words sprayed that are anti-Black with the tremendous work and awareness that the Black Lives Matter movement has done we should be ashamed that we have not moved on,” she said. “For me it’s not a lesson about racism, it’s about us and our actions.”

Rabbi Linda Shriner-Cahn of Congregation Tehillah in Riverdale was born in America, but her parents fled Nazi-occupied Europe during WWII. It was hate speech like this that people spewed during the Holocaust, and it has no place in society today, she said.

“We need to sit and look at one another and say this is wrong,” she said. “It has been put in me that if we do not stand together, we will surely fall alone.”

Reach Jason Cohen at jcohen@schnepsmedia.com or (718) 260-4598. For more coverage, follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram @bronxtimes. 

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