Second property vandalized with anti-Semitic graffiti; County Legislator presses for anti-bias commission

PEARL RIVER – A second instance of anti-Semitic vandalism in Pearl River has left a local nursery in shambles and has at least one County Legislator calling for an investigation into anti-Jewish sentiments within the county.

The incident occurred at Van Houten Farms on Sickletown Road at some point over the weekend. On Sunday morning, the property was found ransacked with potted plants turned over, cash registers and sprinklers destroyed, plants uprooted and swastikas and profanity spray painted on the walls of greenhouses . The farm’s 15-year old rabbit Cocoa was also let out of its cage, but returned to the nursery on Monday.

Though the incident bears similarities to an instance of car vandalism on July 27, Orangetown Police said they are not yet certain whether they were perpetrated by the same individual. In the earlier incident, a car owned by homeowners on Lincoln Avenue was found spray painted with swastikas and the words “White Power.” Its tires had also been slashed.

Now, the County Legislature is voicing its own disgust for the shows of hate. Legislative Chairman Alden Wolfe announced today that he wished to form a bipartisan commission to examine the recent crimes as well as underlying anti-Semitic attitudes which encourage them.

“It’s time to get to the bottom of this problem before it gets even worse,” Wolfe said. “We owe it to the vast majority of Rocklanders who deplore hate crimes such as these.”

The incident is the most recent of several anti-Semitic incidents in Rockland County. In the lead-up to elections in the Town of Ramapo, several campaign signs planted by supporters of Christopher St. Lawrence were vandalized with swastikas. Though the symbol is often tied to anti-Semitic attitudes due to its association with the Nazis, police were unable to confirm whether the incident was a prank or true hate speech.

A more violent and explicit incident occurred earlier that August when Shashi Ramsaroop, Lindsey Peaks and Demetrius Latrell attacked two Orthodox Jewish men with a paintball gun in the Village of Kaser. Ramsaroop, who fired the paintball gun, pled guilty to third-degree assault while charges levied against Peaks and Latrell were dismissed provided they do not break the law again.

Such attacks still occur on an annual basis in New York State, but appear to be dropping. Figures released by the Anti-Defamation League show that 203 incidents occurred statewide in 2013, down 18 percent from 248 incidents in 2012. Of all types of anti-Semitic crimes, only assaults showed an increase from 2012 to 2013.