Opinion: Oldest Hatred Stalks New York’s Newest Celebrity Hotspot

Eric Adams/X
Eric Adams/X

Hate arrived in Brooklyn Heights at 4 a.m. Wednesday in the form of at least two masked figures who passed through the early morning darkness wielding canisters of red spray paint.

This neighborhood of elegant brownstones and stately apartment buildings just on the other side of the Brooklyn Bridge from Lower Manhattan has in years past been home to literary greats such as Walt Whitman, W.H. Auden, and Norman Mailer. Its current firmament includes a host of A-list actors, including Matt Damon, Adam Driver, and Paul Giamatti.

The masked figures slipped onto Hicks Street and entered the courtyard of a six-story luxury co-op where Lena Dunham of the HBO show Girls lived until 2017. The present residents include a figure from the art world who should be celebrated by all those who experienced the horror of the most monstrous hate crime in the city’s history: the attack on the World Trade Center.

In the aftermath of 9/11, the public art nonprofit Creative Time, headed by Anne Pasternak, commissioned a project called “Tribute in Light” that marked the six-month anniversary of the attack with twin beams described as “the most powerful shafts of light ever produced from Earth.” They shot four miles into the night sky from ground zero and to see them was to feel at once how much was lost because of blind hate and how much survived despite it. The lights shone again on the first anniversary and have every year afterward.

Pasternak went on to become director of the Brooklyn Museum, which has of late been targeted by pro-Palestine activists whose grievances with the institution seem more antisemitic pretext than legitimate protest.

Brooklyn Museum’s Jewish Leaders’ Homes Targeted by Vandals: ‘Unacceptable Antisemitism’

Just read the nonsense the organization Within Our Lifetime offered on its website to explain a demonstration it staged outside the museum last week:

“Despite its claim to be a ‘progressive’ cultural institution, we know that through its leadership, trustees, corporate sponsors and donors, this museum is deeply invested in and complicit in the ongoing colonization, ethnic cleansing and genocide of the Palestinian people.”

During the protest, a number of people were arrested after they barged into the museum.

As the group tells it, “the Brooklyn Museum’s complicity in this genocide was met with ongoing escalation.”

“If you take peace from the people, we take peace from you,” the group declared afterward, without offering much in the way of a concrete connection to the ongoing conflict.

At 4 a.m. Wednesday, the super in the co-op building where Pasternak resides was awakened by a resident who had been on her way to the gym when she saw that vandals had sprayed the exterior with red paint. They had stenciled the message “blood on your hands” on the walkway and painted two inverse red triangles by the entryway. Such triangles are used by Hamas to mark Israeli military targets. They also hung a banner across the entrance.

Anne Pasternak

Brooklyn Museum



Police responded and the super—who would only identify himself to The Daily Beast as Daniel—showed the officers video from surveillance cameras that flank the courtyard. The footage captured the full 90 seconds of the attack, but masks concealed the suspects’ faces.

Daniel reported that Pasternak was away at the time of the attack. He took down the hateful banner and hired a company that normally cleans up after fires to address the red paint.

“Everybody should be outraged,” he told The Daily Beast.

He failed to see any connection between Pasternak—or the Brooklyn Museum—and Gaza.

“What does this have to do with what’s going on?” he asked.

A neighbor named Stacy Manko also paused to survey the scene while walking her dog, Wesley. She told The Daily Beast she has lived in Brooklyn Heights for 30 years and only encountered antisemitism for the first time several days ago. She was wearing a Jewish star on the way home from Trader Joe’s when she passed a man in a keffiyeh.

“I felt something wet,” she recalled. “He had spit on me.”

A neighbor from nearby Furman Street who would only give her name as Katie came by with her 5-year-old daughter. Katie reported her own recent encounter with antisemitism.

Did I Witness a Hate Crime in Manhattan’s Liberal Melting Pot?

“Somebody took our mezuzah,” she said, adding that it had been given to her husband by his grandparents in Minnesota and it had been by their door since they married.

“That’s very upsetting,” Manko said.

Katie and her daughter continued on up the tree-lined street to an apartment that no longer had a mezuzah in a neighborhood known more for celebrities than hate. The crew kept at the red paint outside the building of an admirable celebrity of another kind.

Pasternak did not respond to phone and email messages for comment from The Daily Beast. But she did issue a statement.

“For two centuries, the Brooklyn Museum has worked to foster mutual understanding through art and culture, and we have always supported peaceful protest and open, respectful dialogue,” she said. “Violence, vandalism and intimidation have no place in that discourse.”

The residences of three members of the museum’s board have also been vandalized.

“Only the Jewish ones,” Manko noted as she stood outside Pasternak’s home, where hate had come to the Heights.

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