NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Offensive graffiti has alarmed some residents of South Ozone Park, Queens, and some believe it constitutes a hate crime.
As CBS2’s Meg Baker reported, the vandalism spreads more than just one property.
“I saw on the window of the Knights of Columbus establishment, ‘Hindu gang; exclamation mark times three,’ or something like that,” said Aminta Kilawan, co-founder of Sadhana: Coalition of Progressive Hindus.
Indeed the message in red paint does read, “Hindu gang,” followed by three exclamation points. It is angering not only the Hindu community, but others in the neighborhood.
“It used to be a beautiful neighborhood,” said resident Vincenzo Falci. “It’s changing for the bad — fast.”
Trinity Singh, owner of Citywide Insurance Brokerage Inc., said he was surprised to see the graffiti one recent morning.
“I guess some kids probably just wrote it there. I don’t think any of that kind of a thing exists in this neighborhood,” Singh said. “I never heard of a Hindu gang.”
Kilawan said does not believe Hindus were involved in the vandalism, but rather that it is all meant to be an attack on her faith.
“We’re often touted as a peaceful, pacifist community, but I feel it’s important to speak out when it comes to matters like this,” she said.
Kilawan said there is no such thing as a “Hindu gang.”
“My community -– particularly the Indo-Caribbeans who have migrated to New York and made Queens as diverse as it is — I felt like it’s a direct attack against us,” she said.
Police said the Knights of Columbus filed a police report. What police did not know at the time was that another business on the block was also hit.
A man named Kamal owns nearby 5th Avenue Wine and Liquors and did not want his last name used. He showed CBS2’s Baker pictures of his business sprayed with the same red paint, which was later washed away. The message on the liquor store appeared to show a dollar sign and the letters Z and Y.
“Three or weeks ago; at night, like 5:30 early morning,” Kamal said.
Multiple business owners on Lefferts Boulevard all agreed that no matter the symbolism behind the graffiti, it is disrespectful.
Police as of Tuesday were still investigating and were in touch with the liquor store owner.