By Paula Katinas
Bay Ridge — A patriotic block was recently hit by thieves who came in the dead of night and ripped U.S. flags from flagpoles in front of three houses, according to outraged residents.
The thieves swiped the flags from the flagpoles in the front yards of houses at 570, 571 and 572 73rd St. one night in mid-February, residents said.
“It was probably in the middle of the night,” said Katherine Khatari, who lives in a three-family home that was targeted by the thieves. “I was going to work in the morning when I noticed that the flag was gone. I thought maybe my neighbor took it in. But when I looked across the street and saw that the flag was missing from there, too, I realized that something had happened.”
State Sen. Marty Golden came to the rescue by purchasing new flags for the residents. He presented the flags to residents during a brief ceremony on March 8.
“The message is: You can’t steal American flags and get away with it,” Golden said as he stood with a group of residents. “We will not allow our pride as Americans to be stolen from us.”
The flags measure 3 feet by 5 feet and residents said they couldn’t wait to fly them from their flagpoles.
“I feel wonderful,” Khatari said. “I knew Marty would come through.”
It was Khatari who brought the matter to Golden’s attention. The day the theft was discovered, she ran into John Quaglione, Golden’s deputy chief of staff, and told him about it.
“I didn’t even have my coffee yet and she was yelling at me,” Quaglione said with a smile.
He quickly told his boss about the stolen flags and Golden made plans to buy replacements.
The theft of American flags is a scandal in a patriotic community like Bay Ridge, according to Golden, who said that there are many streets in the neighborhood lined with flags.
Bay Ridge residents are proud that their community is the home of the Fort Hamilton Army Base, the only active military post in New York City, he said. The fort was built in 1825. Its front gate is located on Fort Hamilton Parkway and 101st Street. The fort serves as a military entrance processing station, a place where new recruits are processed into the military.
Because of the presence of the fort, Bay Ridge residents are keenly aware of the sacrifices made by members of the military in the nation’s fight against terrorism, Golden said.
“It’s up to us to show them our respect for their service,” Golden said. “This flag is what this country is based on. This flag is the greatest symbol of freedom there is.”
Golden urged Khatari and her neighbors to take their new flags and “fly them high and fly them proud!”
He also urged anyone who saw the flags being stolen, or who saw anyone suspicious on the block, to call police.