Vandals caused thousands of dollars in damage to the Schenectady Hindu Temple early Monday, saddening members of a community that is already facing foreclosure on its property.
Temple President Ravishankar Ishmael said the congregation had left the building at 1052 Pleasant St. between 10 and 11 p.m. Sunday following a service. When he returned at 11 the next morning, he saw two broken windows, glass all over the place, a sound mixer taken from the temple and other sound equipment damaged. There was also water, ketchup, barbecue sauce, rice and flour all over the temple.
“How can someone do such a thing to a church?” he asked.
Ishmael had no idea who may have done it or what the motive might be.
“That’s left to the police to investigate,” he said.
It appears the vandals tried to pry open the door but were unsuccessful, according to Ishmael, though they got in through one of the smashed windows. There was also a message written on the floor, but Ishmael didn’t want to say what it was.
Ishmael said there was at least $7,000 worth of damage, possibly more depending on whether the electronics can be repaired.
“The technician is just trying to figure out what the problem is,” he said.
The temple — the first of its kind in Schenectady — had its first service in 2001 to accommodate the influx of Guyanese who practice Hinduism. About 75 to 125 people attend the weekly service, according to Ishmael.
The congregation is upset, but “there’s nothing we can do about it. We have to allow the police to do what they have to do,” Ishmael said.
City police spokesman Sgt. Adriel Linyear said investigators don’t have a motive or any suspects. A police evidence technician responded and processed the scene. Anyone with information about the incident is asked to contact detectives at 382-5245.
Ishmael said there is no security at the building.
“We are scared to invest money into the temple when we don’t know if we’re going to still have the building,” he said.
The temple owed about $61,000 in taxes, interest and fees as of last year because it did not file the required paperwork to protect its nonprofit status.
The tax liens were sold to American Tax Funding, which sent real estate agents to the temple to get them to pay. The city is trying to work with ATF to get those liens back.
“We’ve been patiently waiting for four years now,” Ishmael said.
Mayor Gary McCarthy said he did not know what the current situation was with the temple’s tax liens and ATF. He referred questions to Corporation Counsel John Polster, who had left for the day.
McCarthy condemned the vandalism.
“It’s just tragic when you have those types of acts of senseless vandalism, just a flaw in human character that people lower themselves to engage in that type of behavior,” he said.
The Guyanese American Association of Schenectady also issued a statement.
“We appeal to all the sane people to consider this an act of hate and not religiously motivated, even if it appears that way. It is a shame that people stoop so low to desecrate a place of worship.”