An attack on one group of people is an attack on the entire community.
That was the message at a Monday, August 6 press conference at which Borough President Eric Adams joined local elected leaders, political hopefuls, the United Chinese Association of Brooklyn and a number of local residents to denounce a pattern of anti-Chinese graffiti that popped up at several sites in Bensonhurst over the weekend.
“This is an assault on our community, what we stand for and what we represent,” said Adams, who, at the conference, offered a $1,000 reward for information on the incident. “This is an attempt to degrade a community of people and create a level of terror.
“We will not be silenced,” he stressed, citing a recent spike in similar hate crimes, and urging the New York City Police Department to treat the incident as such.
The graffiti – which, officials said Monday, seemed to be painted with the help of a pre-made stencil – appeared over the weekend on or near at least five Asian-American-owned Bensonhurst businesses, its wording so obscene officials did not want to repeat it or even share the imagery to their social media pages.
Still, some in attendance held uncensored signs of the markings as a reminder that they, like Adams, will not be silenced.
All in attendance Monday urged local business owners to check their security cameras and to turn over to authorities anything that might be helpful.
Councilmember Mark Treyger called the incident “one of the sickest hate crimes” in Bensonhurst’s recent history.
“This is a sick, despicable, deranged hate crime,” he told the crowd, adding that, though the community “condemn[s], denounce[s] and reject[s] this type of hate and intolerance,” it is also important to note that these actions, in no way, reflect the feelings of the community.
“I want to also make it very clear this hate crime does not define who we are. This is a diverse, wonderful, beautiful neighborhood made up of hardworking families, seniors and children that celebrate and welcome diversity,” he said. “That is what makes us great.”
State Sen. Diane Savino shared similar sentiments.
“[This] is a definition of a hate crime in the New York State Penal Code,” she said, speaking straight to the unknown perpetrator. “I want to remind him that the likelihood is he may only be a first or second generation American himself, as I am, as many of us are in this community.
“He should remember the stories that his grandparents told him about how they were welcome,” Savino went on, adding that, for “a nation of immigrants” with “an open door policy…usually, when they get here, we don’t treat them particularly well.”
But, “What we saw from this person is an insult that every woman should decry – not just Chinese-American women,” she said. “I stand here with my sisters who are Chinese-American or Chinese immigrants to say, ‘We reject that. . .’ Nowhere in this city will we stand and accept this.”
Also among those to denounce the crime were Assemblymember William Colton, Democratic District Leader Nancy Tong, political hopefuls Andrew Gounardes, Ross Barkan and Ethan Lustig-Elgrably, and representatives for Assemblymember Peter Abbate, state Sen. Marty Golden and Councilmember Justin Brannan, as well as longtime Chinese-American resident Dr. Tim Law, who’s lived in the neighborhood for 50 years.
“Hate makes everyone separate,” said Tong, the borough’s first and only Asian-American elected official, “We need peace.”
Perhaps most appalling to all was the time taken to execute the crime – which, cops say, is being investigated “heavily.” While it is unclear if all hits have been uncovered, as many as five or six are currently being addressed.
“Someone took their time to create a stencil. They took their time to identify those that they believe are Asian-run businesses. They took their time to spray-paint,” Adams said. “There was a premeditated action to identify a particular group and harass that group – we need to be clear on that. This wasn’t an accident.”
The crime, Adams added, took place in “one of the largest Chinese and Asian-American communities in the country.
“To me, that says hate crime all over it,” he said, “and that crime is to be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.”
“Let’s make it clear,” Treyger concluded. “We will always stand up against hate here in Bensonhurst and here in Brooklyn.”