At the most recent public meeting of the Stewart Manor Board of Trustees, the issue of the village’s ongoing fight against an unknown group of vandals was highlighted as a priority matter that authorities are currently looking into.
To date, 10 village signs and 26 trees have been defaced with spray paint, up to and including notorious racist symbols that have attracted the attention of the Nassau County Police’s Hate Crimes Unit. Among the ongoing efforts to combat the rash of vandalism throughout the area, the Village of Stuart Manor recently sent a notice to local residents informing them of not only the issue and the steps they were taking to address it, but also recommendations from the Nassau County Police Department (NCPD) on how citizens can help.
“Since October, vandals have defaced village trees and expensive village signs with spray paint. In addition, a swastika was painted on a tree on May 7, which has drawn the attention of special units of the NCPD that deal with hate crimes,” the notice said. “The Stewart Manor Village Board will tolerate no graffiti on village property whatsoever, and has launched an aggressive plan to counter these offenses. Together with the NCPD and the village code enforcement officers, additional patrols within the village have been implemented. In addition, other countermeasures will soon be deployed.”
Deputy Mayor Michael Onorato noted that the village is requesting that residents join in combating the problem before it escalates into something more serious during the summer months. Residents are asked to be vigilant, call 911 if they observe or hear anything suspicious, and leave their outside lights on during evening hours. Parents of teenage children are requested to check their paint storage shelves for missing cans of spray paint.
“We will not stand for it, and we’ll prosecute to the highest level possible anyone that we catch defacing village property…we are taking this very seriously,” Onorato said. “Defacing village properties carries significant punishment, especially when it concerns hate symbols, which is a federal offense. The NCPD advises that if fines are levied and exceed $250, the incident is considered a felony. The Village of Stewart Manor will not hesitate to punish to the fullest extent of the law those responsible for the more than $7,000 worth of damage done so far to village signs and trees.”
However, Mayor Gerard S. Tangredi pointed out that since the village had mailed out the aforementioned notice to local residents, incidents of vandalism have appeared to have tapered off for now.
“The swastika and the signs were done on May 7,” he said. “That was the last incident that we had, and we’ve had no recent incidents since then…the swastika was painted on May 7 on a tree located on Salisbury Avenue, and the signs that were defaced were on Cambridge and Tulip. Hopefully we won’t be seeing this vandalism again.”
First Deputy Chief Tom Skinner of the Stewart Manor Fire Department also said that he had noticed with the warmer weather, thieves were again starting to break into parked cars whose owners had inadvertently left them unlocked. Skinner urged his neighbors to remember to keep their car doors locked at all times and to never leave valuables inside them. He also relayed the tell-tale sign that your car may have been broken into.
“The thieves never slam the car door shut because it makes too much noise, so it leaves the car’s interior light on,” he said. “So that’s what the Code Enforcement guys do, as do I, when I do my drive-through. I look for lights on inside the car in the driveways, because that means someone got in, took their stuff, and they left the door open. So if you see one or two or three cars with their interior lights on, you know the thieves are on the block and maybe we can grab them. It seems like we go through this every summer.”
Village Attorney Benjamin Truncale, Jr. also gave a quick update on the village’s opposition to New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s Third Track project, a 10-mile long addition to the Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) slated to run from Floral Park to Hicksville.
Truncale noted that Tangredi is currently part of a group of eight local mayors of municipalities that stand to be impacted by the project. And while there are potential benefits to the communities that the Third Track will be passing through (such as eliminating dangerous track crossings in favor of underground tunnels ), Truncale said that the main issue the mayors have with the process is the perceived lack of transparency on the part of New York State.
“The roll-out of the project is really not compliant with the requirements of the State Environmental Quality Review Act, which requires more participation and more information given to those who are going to be affected,” he said. “If you look at the document released by the LIRR, if you read it cover-to-cover, you won’t even find where the Third Track is going to be…there are a lot of procedural issues that are being challenged at this time, because there are a lot of inconsistencies.”