Vandals fire-bombed parked cars and sprayed anti-Semitic graffiti on benches in a heavily Jewish Brooklyn neighborhood on Friday, in what police and the community decried as a senseless and disturbing hate crime.
The arson happened along Ocean Parkway in Midwood, between Avenue I and Avenue J, where three luxury cars were torched. “KKK” was scrawled on the side of a van, the police said, and benches were covered in swastikas and anti-Semitic slurs.
“The violence – I’m calling it violence when you blow up three cars – adds a sickening dimension to this type of anti-Semitism,” said Assembly member Dov Hikind, who lives two blocks away. Hikind said he regularly walks past the benches with his 90-year-old mother to Sabbath services.
“We walk down Ocean Parkway every single week,” Hikind said. “All I could think about was my mother sitting on a bench with a swastika. She survived Auschwitz.”
Outside of the Holy Land, Midwood and Borough Park contain one of the largest concentrations of Holocaust survivors.
On Sunday afternoon, residents and City Council officials participated in an organized march protesting the racism.
“I’m shocked it happened here, on my block,” said Ayton Eller, who proudly sported an Israeli flag to the rally. “Can you believe it?”
“If it was only the swastikas, we would be upset. But when you add the violence, it adds another dimension. I don’t remember anything like it in the 29 years I’m in public office,” Hikind added. “This community in particular, this is a beautiful community. We almost have no crime in this community. That this happens is extremely disturbing.”
“The fact that this most recent attack came on the heels of the 73rd anniversary of Kristalnacht may or may not be a coincidence,” said Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg in a prepared statement. “Either way, this kind of hateful act has no place in the freest city in the freest country in the world.”
The NYPD Hate Crimes Task Force is investigating, and law enforcement officials promised to increase police presence in the neighborhood.