ASTORIA — In the latest in a sudden rash of vandalism attacks at churches in the Diocese of Brooklyn, black spray-painted graffiti was found on the exterior of Immaculate Conception Church on June 8.
A pastoral seminarian at the Queens church discovered the spray paint that afternoon and notified Msgr. Fernando Ferrarese, pastor of Immaculate Conception, and Father Liju Augustine, the church’s parochial vicar, who contacted local police.
“When you deface the house of God, it has another level of seriousness that has to be brought into perspective,” said Msgr. Ferrarese. “I’m kind of happy there was no hate speech involved, but at the same time, it was offensive and wrong. “The person who did this should be held accountable.”
According to the police report, an unknown individual spray-painted the word “reel” and “other unrecognizable graffiti” on the street pavement as well as the steps and a wall of the church — located on the side street at 21-47 29th Street — at about 4:07 pm on June 8.
“You can easily hide there because it is kind of off the beaten track,” said Msgr. Ferrarese, “so, I think that’s why [the individual] chose that particular spot.”
Msgr. Ferrarese confirmed that there was surveillance camera footage of the incident, which was viewed by the police. The parish’s Knights of Columbus Council #11449 has contacted the pastor and said they will help fund the removal of the graffiti.
“I’ve been here almost 14 years and I’ve never had this before,” Msgr. Ferrarese added. “Astoria has been a very, very safe area in regards to graffiti and so many different other things.”
“I think, right away, people were really shocked by it,” he continued.
This incident follows the recent vandalisms that took place at St. Adalbert Church in Elmhurst and St. Athanasius Church in Bensonhurst. A 130-year-old statue at St. Adalbert Church was toppled and broken into pieces sometime between the evening of May 27 and the morning of May 28. On May 13, an individual knocked the St. Athanasius Church’s crucifix to the ground and also tore down and burned an American flag that was hanging outside a building on the church’s property.
“It’s a horrible thing that’s happening,” said Msgr. David Cassato, pastor of St. Athanasius. “It really is a desecration.”
“This is going on all over the place and is not just at Catholic churches,” he added. “It’s with synagogues, mosques, and other places too.”
Ali Alaheri, 29, was arrested on May 21 and charged with criminal mischief as a hate crime in the St. Athanasius case. No arrests have been made in the St. Adalbert Church incident.
Police said the investigation is ongoing at Immaculate Conception and no arrests have been made at this time.