Man Caught On Video Trashing Political Signs
By Lori Gross
A Bayside man was caught on video tearing down campaign signs from a private construction site on Northern Boulevard – and admits to having torn signs down from the same site and others previously.
Richard Lazar ripped a full construction wall’s worth of signs down individually near midnight of June 11, and threw them over the construction wall. The site’s building manager filmed the act, and later Lazar’s erratic reaction on being caught. The footage culminated with Lazar threatening the cameraman with a broom, after he followed Lazar to his home and onto his property during their confrontation.
The entire construction wall was covered with signs for District 19 Democratic candidate Kevin Kim, the result of three hours of canvassing, said Justin Kang, the owner of the building who had previously posted Kim signs on his wall which were also torn down. The footage shows Lazar spending about 10 minutes tearing signs from the wall.
“He violated my freedom of speech,” said Kang. “That’s my property. I let [Kim] put up my posters. I care. I don’t know why he did that. If he felt sorry about his wrongdoing, I wouldn’t [have reported it] to the police.” Kang said he did report Lazar to the police, though Lazar said Monday he had not yet been contacted by the police about the incident.
Kang said that he would have posted the signs for any candidate seeking permission, and that he is not implicating any of Kim’s competitors in the race, which include Jerry Iannece, Paul Vallone, Debra Markell, Steve Behar and Tom Cooke. Kim noted that his building manager, who is not English-fluent, understood Lazar when he stated “it’s my job,” when asked why he tore down the signs. The footage did not have any audio to verify that statement.
“We’re saddened that this guy would want to deface private property,” said Kim spokesman Kevin Clemency. “If anyone wants to express their opposition to our candidate, they should do so in the ballot box.”
A Vallone campaign sign stood on Lazar’s lawn Friday, though he said the sign was put up by his daughter without his knowledge, and he has no stake in the race one way or another. He said he has since taken it down, and put it in the window.
“This is a community; we try to maintain it, keep the place neat,” Lazar said regarding his motivation to tear down the signs. “It is not a shanty-town. It makes the community look tacky.” He added that he didn’t mind when candidates put posters in store windows.
Lazar claimed that plastering signs for public display is against the law, though private property owners can in fact display signs on their grounds. He said his motivation in tearing down the signs was not political, and that he would have torn down signs even for Big Apple Circus. He noted that the man shooting the video poured the contents of a Gatorade bottle on the ground and left the bottle, and Lazar accused the cameraman of “basically harassing” him.
Lazar admitted to having been the one to tear town Kang’s previous canvassing of signs, and others around the neighborhood – but did not want to implicate himself further by offering specifics. He said he was on his way home when he saw the signs and was compelled to take them down, but would not say where he was coming home from.
Following this event, Lazar said he would not get involved in tearing down signs anymore if it’s going to cause trouble.