UPDATED: Village, Residents Say Chalk Graffiti on Historic Building During Dickens Festival Was Vandalism

Residents and mayor say act was idea of one parent that got out of control.

What appeared to be a fun children’s activity at the Long Island Music Hall of Fame building during the Dickens Festival in Port Jefferson ended up being an unsanctioned act of vandalism, according to officials and a resident who brought up the issue at the village board of trustees meeting on Monday night.

In an email to Patch, resident Sandra Swenk said that the chalk graffiti on the former Brookhaven Town Tax Receiver’s Building was the work of "an aggressive parent" and not on the schedule.

"It was totally disrespectful and uncalled for," said Swenk.

People visiting the village thought that boxes of chalk left on the steps and the window sills of the building were meant for writing messages on the brick walls, some wishing people a Merry Christmas and others making proclamations about Scrooge. During the event, parents and children said that the promoters offered the chalk for the activity. Apparently that was not the case.

The whole idea came from one parent and according to Garant it "took off like wild fire." The identity of the parent has not been revealed.

The mayor was not happy when she first came upon the chalk scribbling that by the time she saw it took up the entire façade of the building on Main Street and East Main Street.

"Before you knew it the entire building was covered," she said calling the idea "innocent and creative but not what we planned at all or how we treat our very special historic and landmark buildings."

Swenk was also unhappy.

"The building was patiently restored several years ago by the Town since it owns the building (circa 1900)," she said calling the exterior fragile. "This act that was supported by a parent and obviously others in the area with their children was inappropriate with no concern for an historic building in our village."

Jim Faith, chairman of the Long Island Music Hall of Fame's board of directors, said that he did not know about the chalk graffiti before it started.

"I would have never allowed anyone to deface our building or especially our full window banners," he said to Patch in an email.

Faith said the event at the building was shared between his organization and the Greater Port Jefferson Northern Brookhaven Arts Council.

"Obviously this was not related to music history," he said.

He added that it was probably thought of as a fun idea that went awry and when Hall of Fame officials noticed it, Faith says they tried to put a stop to it.

"When we realized that it was happening, our secretary Jill Nees went outside and removed whatever chalk was still there, and stopped the 'chalking' of the building," Faith said.

The parent who started the graffiti is "deeply sorry" according to Garant and the village is cleaning the chalk off the exterior of the building.

"We are scrubbing her as we speak," she said.

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Lauri December 05, 2012 at 08:49 PM
Really!!! Its chalk - its not permanent! Nothing a little water or the next rain storm cant fix. What was done was not vandalism - it was more like getting caught up in the moment of the festivities. There was also markings on the sidewalk - was that also vandalism? And if so - why was the chalk left there? What WAS it for? Merry Christmas!
Annie Gurl December 05, 2012 at 09:03 PM
Why would any parent assume that defacing a historical building (or any building) and encouraging children to do so is acceptable? I just don't get it (shakes head).
karon December 05, 2012 at 09:25 PM
The parent who started the graffiti is "deeply sorry" according to Garant and the village is cleaning the chalk off the exterior of the building". Shouldn't the parent be cleaning the graffiti? Village workers are getting paid to do their jobs, not someone else's job!
Tracey Mc December 05, 2012 at 09:53 PM
When you sit in the barber's chair, you get a haircut. Who left the chalk out there, in typical presentation form, to begin with? The story fails to detail that point. Who bought the chalk & how was it made available to the public in such a forward & suggestible way anyway? The story states... "People visiting the village thought that boxes of chalk left on the steps and the window sills of the building were meant for writing messages on the brick walls..." Who supplied the chalk and why was it there?
Gary Gudzik December 05, 2012 at 09:54 PM
How about all the code enforcement personnel who were stationed at that corner directing traffic and closing off East Main Street? If the chalk graffiti was not a sanctioned activity, why is it being called "vandalism" now? Are we saying that the LIMHOF people never came outside and looked at the side of their building? They allowed it to occur. Someone...anyone...could have said something to the code enforcement personnel, who could have just taken away the chalk and ended the problem before it got out of hand. And now our taxpayer dollars are paying for the cleanup? I would think the LIMHOF people ought to get out there with sponges and running water, not Village employees. And blaming it on one aggressive parent? I don't think so...a great many adults and children had a hand in this.
Lon Cohen December 05, 2012 at 09:57 PM
Hi Tracey, The chalk was supplied by a parent and not the village or the Long Island Music Hall of Fame. I will follow up if more information becomes available on the parent.
Chuck December 05, 2012 at 10:04 PM
Get real Laurie. Chalk may wash off sidewalks when it rains, but NOT vertical surfaces like walls. And Mayor Garant, why are my tax dollars being used to clean up the mess started by a parent ( I'll use that word loosely) who apparently is a total asshole? She and any others who participated should be forced to reimburse the Village and/or the Town. And she is not being identified? Who are you protecting Mayor?
Lauri December 05, 2012 at 11:10 PM
We're not talking offensive writing on the walls. It was Christmas cheer! And we're not talking scrubbing for hours. Got a bucket of water -throw it and watch the writing disappear! The building will still be standing long after the chalk and the people who wrote there are gone! Lets lighten up a little here! We're making more out of this than is really necessary!
Chris Tarzia December 06, 2012 at 02:26 AM
There are many other problems to be worrying about, then chalk on the building.
Earl December 06, 2012 at 04:19 AM
Seriously this is a news story? We could only be so lucky for this to be a real story. How about cleaning away the homeless? There is a real story!! Chalk could be washed off that wall in under 5 minutes. Ridiculous! Those board meetings must be something else down there!
Lauri December 06, 2012 at 04:53 AM
@ Earl & Chris -where's the "like"button!!!! LOL!
Living in Brookhaven December 06, 2012 at 12:17 PM
Really? Chalk is considered vandalism. Welcome to the police state.
Melissa Petsco December 06, 2012 at 12:22 PM
Guys seriously stop complaining and blaming. Get into the Holiday spirit and have fun! Put a smile on your face ! Merry Christmas!
Don December 06, 2012 at 12:56 PM
My God, relax it is only chalk and as stated the building is owned by the town and in essence owned by the community. Stop getting your panties in a bunch about chalk that will wash off with rain and worry about the heroin problem in Port Jefferson.
diamond December 06, 2012 at 03:47 PM
Since the village employees are cleaning off the chalk I think the bill should be sent to the person who did the wrong. Why should residents tax dollars be spent for the clean up. Where were the code officers when this was going on? Asleep at the switch as usual. I also think the Town of Brookhaven should become involved since it is their building. Diamond
William Hadley December 06, 2012 at 04:26 PM
Whoever was in charge of the event at that location is responsible, simple.
William Hadley December 06, 2012 at 04:28 PM
Melissa did you see the moron on the wall who wrote "Occupy Christmas"
William Hadley December 06, 2012 at 05:35 PM
Chuck, the parent in question was obviously the one who ran the event at that location, she was even interviewed by News12. I believe she goes under the guise of "Village Spokesperson"
Lorraine Berardi December 06, 2012 at 08:41 PM
I have to honestly say when you deface a building it is vandalism. When I saw it Monday morning I was really taken back because it left a real shabby look to the Village. I thought to myself, if it starts here how far is this going to go? And I want to thank the Mayor and the Village for getting rid of it so promptly. And for those who say "it was just chalk," a lot of it is still left. I, too, think the parent should be out there scubbing the rest off with the children that did it to let them know this is never acceptable.
John Juhasz December 06, 2012 at 09:32 PM
With all due respect to all, you all have good points. However, I watched to Port Jeff Fire Department use high pressure hoses to wash the building, and it looked clean at first. But the next morning (Wednesday) it was just like it was before they sprayed it. So rain would will not wash it off. I don't agree that it was vandalsim, and Code Enforcement may have not known it was not a sanctioned activity.
Mikhail Polyanskiy December 07, 2012 at 02:25 AM
Maybe using this particular building was a bad idea, but this kind of activity, if properly organized and advertised, could certainly help to attract more visitors to the village (this is the point of the festival, right?)
Tracey Mc December 08, 2012 at 01:22 AM
justme December 08, 2012 at 01:01 PM
The parent who started the chalk writing and encouraged the kids in this activity should be held responsible for cleanup and issue an apology to the LIMHOF and the Village. If there was a box of chalk in front of your house would you like the community to write all over it just because nobody stopped them? What if you heard that your neighbor encouraged it ? Wouldn't you expect your neighbor to clean it up and apologize? Come forward parent who encouraged this and do the right thing. Be a better example for the kids!
justme December 08, 2012 at 01:09 PM
Really? How would you feel if someone did that to your house? Parents should be teaching their kids to respect our historic buildings and other people's property. Teaching kids at such a young age that it's okay to "go with the crowd" will prove to be a very bad lesson! Who knows why the chalk was there, but it wasn't "supplied by the LMHOF" or there for that purpose.
justme December 08, 2012 at 01:15 PM
Why would anyone assume that boxes of chalk on steps and window sills of buildings were meant for writing messages on brick walls? Some parent behaved badly and encouraged the group to do something wrong and instead of apologizing for it somehow you defend it? How about teaching the kids involved to do the right thing and aid in the cleanup and issue an apology to the LIMHOF?
justme December 08, 2012 at 01:18 PM
Why don't the great many adults and children who enjoyed the afternoon come back and clean up or contribute to a fund for the cleanup the building for the LIMHOF? The "aggressive parent" who lead the vandalism can organize that too!
justme December 08, 2012 at 01:19 PM
So in the spirit of Christmas cheer go back and clean it up?
William Hadley December 08, 2012 at 04:40 PM
The parent in question was obviously the one who ran the event at that location, she was even interviewed by News12. I believe she goes under the guise of "Village Spokesperson"


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