WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. -- Calling anti-Semitic and anti-black graffiti found on a bike path in White Plains “vile” and “disgusting,” County Executive Rob Astorino said Monday that authorities plan to investigate it as a “hate crime.”
“I don’t care if this was a kid who thought this was a funny prank, or this was an adult who took stupidity to the Nth level, they will be prosecuted,” said Astorino at a press conference near the Bronx River.
The graffiti was found just south of the Metro North train station.
“Bigotry in any of its forms will not be tolerated in Westchester,” said Astorino, who was joined by James Castro-Blanco, executive director of the county's Human Rights Commission, and George Longworth, commissioner of the Westchester County Police.
The footpath and bridge were spray-painted with a swastika, the initials KKK and racial slurs.
It is being removed by the county and Longworth has been directed to place additional resources and surveillance in all public areas owned by the county, including more inspections of county trail ways and bike paths.
The graffiti has not been linked to any particular group.
Astorino, who is a longtime friend of President-elect Donald Trump, a Bedford resident, took special pains to acknowledge the political aspects of something like this occurring so soon after an election where emotions ran high on both sides.
“Freedom of speech, of religion, of voting are all part of who we are as Americans,” said the county executive, adding: “But we have to be careful of going too far. Everything is not absolute.”
Astorino said that Trump, in his first televised sit-down interview since becoming president-elect, told CBS’ Lesley Stahl that he was saddened by reports that Latinos and Muslims were facing harassment from certain of his supporters.
According to media reports, Trump looked straight into the camera as if to address the guilty parties and said, simply: “Stop it.”
Astorino repeatedly brought up the subject of the way outrage was expressed during protests and demonstrations that followed Trump’s election, saying it sets up “a very dangerous precedent” and creates a “toxic environment.”
He even took a swipe at the U.S. Senate minority leader, Democrat Harry Reid of Nevada, who has been lambasting Trump. “The Harry Reids of the world who are pushing the intolerance on the Senate floor should be stopped as well,” Astorino said.
He called on President Barack Obama and Chappaqua’s Hillary Clinton, who lost to Trump last Tuesday, to also urge supporters to “calm down."
“It’s time to move on. Both sides need to speak up about the healing process and how none of this should be acceptable,” Astorino said.
Calling Westchester “very welcoming,” he said the county is the “fourth most diverse in all of New York state.”
The vast majority of residents here, he said, are “loving, open-minded and respectful.”
“This is the county I choose to live in,” Astorino added.
As to the few “bad apples” who choose to engage in intolerance and hate, “they should know that it’s (bigotry) not acceptable, not ever,” he said.
With the presidential election now over, Astorino said it was important for all sides to now come together to strengthen the nation.
“That starts with respect, and as county executive, I want everyone to know county government will remain vigilant in its efforts to ensure that the rights, dignity and safety of all our people are protected every day,” he said.
Astorino encouraged anyone who feels they have been the victim of discrimination to contact the county’s Human Rights Commission by calling (914) 995-7710 or by visiting the website, http://humanrights.westchestergov.com/ .