Two separate incidents of anti-Semitic graffiti were reported on the Upper East Side this week, one of which targeted Assembly Member Rebecca Seawright’s office.
Upon arriving at the Seawright Manhattan office Tuesday morning, a staffer discovered the storefront windows splashed with white paint as well as an explicit message containing a sexual reference and anti-Semitic tropes.
“We will not be intimidated by the criminal act and we called for a hate crime investigation from the NYPD,” Seawright said in an interview Wednesday afternoon. “And we’re going to remain vigilant.”
The NYPD initially declared it to be criminal mischief but eventually decided to open a hate crime investigation.
Just two weeks ago, Seawright hosted a virtual town hall on combatting anti-Semitism with a panel of members from the Jewish community. The assembly member held a similar event a year prior after swastikas were found at the Asphalt Green athletic complex.
Several elected officials, including the governor, condemned the rhetoric used in the note and spoke out in support of Seawright.
“This cowardly act is antithetical to New York’s values,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo posted on Twitter Wednesday. “New York has zero tolerance for hate and we will do everything in our power to hold those responsible accountable. I extend my sympathy to @SeawrightForNY that this repugnant note was left at her office.”
On Thursday, the governor directed the State Police Hate Crimes Task Force to assist in the investigation.
Mayor Bill de Blasio also posted a tweet in support.
“If your heart is full of hate you have no home in New York City,” said de Blasio. “@Rebecca76AD, your city stands with you. @NYPDHateCrimes is investigating this.”
The Jewish Community Relations Council, which had taken part in Seawright’s recent town hall, put out a statement commending Seawright for refusing to be intimidated and thanked other elected officials for condemning the incident.
“We remain deeply troubled by the documented increase in anti-Semitic incidents in New York,” read the statement. “We appreciate the role being played by the NYPD in conducting a full investigation of this disturbing incident as a hate crime and will hopefully bring the perpetrators to justice.”
“We Have to Speak Up”
Meanwhile, Eileen Toback, the Executive Director of the New York Professional Nurses Union, said she also discovered anti-Semitic graffiti near her office Tuesday morning.
The message, which shared a similar sexual reference and anti-Semitic stereotype, was written in green marker on a construction porto-potty located 10 feet from her office. Toback said after seeing news reports of what took place at Seawright’s office, she noticed how alike the messages were and called the police to file a report with the hate crimes unit.
“Hate crimes and hate speech diminish us all. It shouldn’t be tolerated or normalized. A crime against any one of us is a crime against all of us whether it’s anti-Semitic, racist, anti-immigrant, misogynistic, homophobic, or anti-transgender,” said Toback. “The rise in hate crimes must be taken seriously and the New York Professional Nurses Union will do all we can to support the police’s investigation in this matter.”
The NYPD does not yet have a report on file for this incident.
In order to combat this ideology, Seawright said New Yorkers cannot stay silent.
“The main thing is we have to speak up and we have to record it and not sit idly by and not acknowledge that something like this has occurred,” she said. “We can all unite together to condemn this behavior.”