UES Officials Denounce Anti-Semitism After Gym Vandalism

UPPER EAST SIDE, NY — Local elected officials and other Upper East Side community leaders held a rally Sunday at the Asphalt Green gym facility to denounce anti-Semitism after one of the gym’s locker rooms was vandalized with paintings of swastikas.

The Asphalt Green vandalism is the latest incident in a rise of anti-Semitism in New York City and throughout the entire United States, Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney said. The longtime representative of the Upper East Side recently introduced legislation called the “Never Again Education Act” to support Holocaust education in public schools.

“Together, through events like this, and by creating the wonderful, multicultural community we have in NYC, we stand up against bigotry in all its forms. In our fight to combat hate and anti-Semitism, we must be proactive, and not just reactive,” Maloney said during Sunday’s rally.

Vandals painted swastikas on the walls and fixtures of family locker rooms in Asphalt Green’s AquaCenter in early March, the gym’s executive director Maggy Siegel wrote in an email to gym users. The facility is located on York Avenue and East 91st Street.

Rabbi Arthur Schneier of the Park East Synagogue, himself a Holocaust survivor, said during Sunday’s rally that: “Hatred of the Jew is a cancer in society that fuels other hatred.” The rabbi called on governments to increase protection at houses of worship and other holy sites for all religions.

The NYPD’s hate crimes unit is investigating the vandalism, a department spokesman said. In a March 8 email, Siegel told gym users that “The investigation has progressed, and we are certain that it will be brought to a resolution very soon.” The NYPD has not announced an arrest in relation to the vandalism.

“I know this act has shaken our community. However, your kind responses, offers to help, and words of support prove how strong we are together. I am confident that this was an isolated incident and that our facility is safe” Siegel wrote in the email.

New York City’s Jewish population has been disproportionately targeted as hate crimes occur more frequently in the city. Jews were the targets of more than half the 352 hate crimes reported in 2018 as of late December.

The city has seen a sustained rise in hate crimes over the last three years since around the time of President Donald Trump’s election. Crimes targeting Jewish, black, Asian and white people all increased last year, though anti-Muslim incidents fell sharply.

A rash of anti-Semitic incidents emerged in the months after the late October massacre of 11 people at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh. A Prospect Heights synagogue was vandalized just days after the shooting, and two Hasidic people were attacked in Williamsburg one week in late November.