Gregory Locke came across the swastika on Morningside Avenue between W 119th and W 120th Streets just before 10 AM this morning.
Taking to Twitter, Locke notified the DOT, Mayor Bill de Blasio’s office and Public Advocate Letitia James of the hate symbol tweeting “Hi @NYC_DOT! Any idea why your line painting contractors are including swastikas on Morningside Ave? Is that a new traffic symbol I am not familiar with?”
Locke, a 29 year old attorney who lives in Harlem, included pictures of the swastika that was painted next to guide lines that had been marked on the recently resurfaced Morningside Avenue by Denville Line Painting.
In a phone interview with VIN News, Bob Toth, director of operations at Denville Line Painting, said that his crews had been in the area for several days and that his manager had reported seeing an African American man in the area randomly painting objects, including trees, on Friday.
Toth said that the white lines were layout lines that would be used by his crews as they painted the final double yellow lines on the roadway.
Responding to Locke’s tweet, a DOT spokesperson said that the swastika appeared to have been made by someone who added extra lines to a “T” layout that indicate where the center yellow buffer would be painted on Morningside Avenue.
An official statement released by the DOT said that the extra lines that transformed the “T” into a swastika appear to have been made by “someone unrelated to the DOT or to its markings contractor” and that the NYPD had been contacted regarding the matter.
Returning to Morningside Avenue less than three hours later, Locke saw a cluster of NYPD officers conferring with the Denville Line Painting contractors at the spot where the swastika had been painted.
Additional markings had been added to the swastika, rendering it unrecognizable as a hate symbol.
Locke appeared pleased to have played a part in erasing a symbol of hate from the streets of New York City.
“Today’s political climate has energized both sides: those who think we need to practice tolerance more than ever and those who think they no longer need to veil their prejudices,” Locke told VIN News. “I don’t know the solution to the problem, but I do know New York will always lean in favor of the tolerant side. That’s why I moved to this city in the first place.”