Two symbols of racial hatred appeared in Howard Beach, Queens this week, upsetting the community. On Wednesday morning, a noose was discovered hanging from a tree branch just down the street from the Walter Ward School on 83rd Street and 153rd Avenue. On Thursday, in the vicinity of where the noose had been found, police reported a swastika had been spray painted on the ground. The display of either symbol can be classified as a hate crime.
Community Board Chair Betty Bratton said that the neighborhood has been trying to outrun its legacy of racial unrest since the 1980's. In 1986, three black men were attacked by a group of white youths. One man, Michael Griffiths, died in that incident when he was chased onto a highway and run over. At the time, the case made headlines and was said to be the driving force behind Spike Lee's Oscar-nominated film "Do the Right Thing."
"Every time there is any type of an incident that has any connotation that tracks back to Howard Beach of the 1980's, people ask what's going to be the immediate response," Bratton said. "The community responds, the community does not tolerate these events, and the community as a whole is disgusted by it."
Bratton said that the district is one of the most diverse in New York City, and that community members will come together at meetings of the neighborhood civic association, synagogues and churches to respond and react to the incident. The case is under investigation by the Hate Crimes Task Force of the New York City Police Department.