By: Shoshy Ciment | News  | 

Swastika Graffiti on YU Residencies Prompts Investigation

The New York City Police Department’s Hate Crime Task Force is currently investigating criminal mischief involving a swastika being engraved on an elevator at 36 Laurel Hill Terrace, an NYPD spokesperson confirmed. The report, filed on Aug. 21, follows a series of complaints from residents of YU-owned apartment buildings at 24 and 36 Laurel Hill Terrace throughout the summer.

Two similar acts of vandalism at the YU-owned 24 Laurel Hill Terrace were reported to the YU Security Office during the past summer, explained Randy Apfelbaum, Chief Facilities and Administrative Officer at Yeshiva University. The NYPD shut down an investigation resulting from an Aug. 3 report of a swastika on the wall of an elevator in 24 Laurel Hill Terrace due to insufficient evidence. A second investigation from a similar report from August 21 is currently in process for 36 Laurel Hill Terrace.

Other similar incidents, such as a swastika being carved into a tree near 24 Laurel Hill, have plagued both residences throughout the summer.

The properties at 24 and 36 Laurel Hill Terrace are owned by Yeshiva University and are primarily used as housing for married students and graduates. In addition to the vandalism, residents of both buildings frequently reported packages as missing this past summer.

Security cameras were added to the lobbies of both buildings following requests from various residents to Joseph Cook, Executive Director for University Operations, and Marcy Reiz, who runs the YU married housing program. YU security currently has a full-time presence to monitor the apartment buildings on Laurel Hill Terrace, explained Apfelbaum. Despite the increase in surveillance, vandalism has persisted in the area.

“The super, YU Security and YU Housing have demonstrated an inability to communicate effectively and a sense of nonchalance that I would find unsettling should there be more serious incidents,” remarked Netanel Paley, a resident of 24 Laurel Hill Terrace for the last five months.

According to Paley, residents of the buildings received no information about the cameras or steps being taken to curb such incidents. Additionally, to date, YU Security has not reported the incidents to the greater student body.

“One would think a university would be more concerned about the safety of its own students and alumni, especially on their own property, so this is very disappointing,” said Paley.

In an annual report, the Anti-Defamation League found a 57 percent increase of reported anti-Semitic incidents in the U.S. during 2017. The sharp rise, in part, was due to a doubling in incidents on college campuses and schools.  A recent chain of vandalism attacks in Washington Heights involved FDNY ambulances and the West 181st Street Firehouse being covered with swastikas and other anti-Semitic material. Jem R. Ibrahimov was arrested on Sept. 1 by FDNY fire marshals after being caught vandalizing the fire station.

“Educating our children and residents on how to respond and fight hate is an important proactive measure we can take to create safe and inclusive communities,” said Evan Bernstein, Regional Director of the Anti-Defamation League in New York and New Jersey. “We have seen the response from the Washington Heights community speaking out against recent acts of bias and we stand with them and will continue working together to make every neighborhood no place for hate.”

“The security of our students, faculty and community is of utmost importance to us,” said Apfelbaum. “We will continue to work closely with the Police Department and our YU security team to ensure everyone’s safety.”

Photo Caption: Recent swastika engravings (left to right): Elevator wall in 24 Laurel Hill, Tree near 24 Laurel Hill, and two walls in 36 Laurel Hill

Photo Credit: Photos compiled by Honey Rogoff for The Commentator