Several signs along StoryWalk Trail in the Long Pond Greenbelt were defaced by violent, racist graffiti the day before Thanksgiving.
“It’s scary to me, because it’s not just graffiti,” said Dai Dayton, president of the Friends of the Long Pond Greenbelt, who added that the messages were unnerving.
It’s also not the only example of graffiti cropping up in and around Sag Harbor.
The week before Halloween, someone defaced the alley-facing south wall of the Sag Harbor Variety Store. Under the Lance Corporal Jordan Haerter Veterans Memorial Bridge, which was recently cleaned of years’ worth of graffiti and repainted, has been targeted in recent weeks by a new group of markings and comments on the newly painted gray concrete canvas there.
Dayton said she cleaned the graffiti off the signs in the greenbelt before leading a “Walk It Off” hike on the Friday after Thanksgiving, because she did not want hikers to have to see the defaced panels. The signs are illustrated with scenes from “The Wild Adventures of Scurry the Squirrel,” a children’s book written by Dell Cullum, and the trail is designed to encourage children to enjoy the outdoors.
She said a Southampton Town Police detective who came to her house to question about the graffiti had “reprimanded” her for removing the evidence.
One sign was defaced with violent, racist language and a gang reference. Another read “I’m gay” followed by an illegible scrawl.
Southampton Town Police declined to comment on the case, only saying it was “an active investigation,” although Dayton said the detective told her graffiti was becoming a widespread problem throughout the town.
Lisa Field, the owner of the Sag Harbor Variety Store, said the wall of her building had been defaced once before, about a year and a half ago, so she was disheartened when it happened again just before Halloween.
“Obviously, this was disgusting,” she said of a crude drawing, as well as other markings. “I don’t want to keep giving these people a blank canvas.”
When it happened before, she said a passerby saw a teen spray-painting the wall in the middle of the afternoon and called police, who apprehended him. Field said rather than pressing charges, she worked out a deal with the youth’s parents to have them pay to have the wall repainted.
She said she assumed the recent vandalism was the result of “some teenager acting stupid,” but added that it would still cost her a lot of money to paint it over.
Mayor Jim Larocca said this week he was disheartened to hear that more graffiti had been found under the bridge near John Steinbeck Waterfront Park. He said the New York State Department of Transportation had cleaned off layers of graffiti and painted the wall under the bridge in September.
But within weeks, new graffiti began to appear. There is an anarchist symbol, a painted face, the word “love” and an admonishment to “do art, not vandalism,” among other markings.
“We are taking this very seriously,” the mayor said, promising new security measures. “We’ve been checking it daily, even on the night tours,” said Police Chief Austin J. McGuire.
The chief said it was difficult to prevent graffiti unless someone was caught in the act, but said police “are working with our local partners to ID the source.”
Anyone who drove down Route 114 to East Hampton in the late 1980s and early 1990s most likely remembers reading “Virgil is the Frog Boy” painted on the Long Island Rail Road trestle near Cove Hollow Road.
Virgil has now made an encore appearance in Sag Harbor, where “VIRGIL THE FROG BOY HAS RISEN” is painted on the north side of the bridge in bright red letters. It is accompanied by a clue in equally large lettering that reads “Benosis is afoot…”