Sign honoring American military in Iraq to get replaced

A bitter cold wind whipped off the ocean causing many in the crowd gathered at the corner of Oriental Boulevard and Corbin Place last Friday to shiver and shudder.

But it didn’t deter the Brighton Beach residents and government officials from protesting the taking of a sign denoting their patriotism.

Four years ago, the intersection was co-named “Heroes of Operation Iraqi Freedom Way” and last December someone swiped the sign.

“Attention must be paid to this hate crime, since it is an obvious demonstration of contempt and impertinence,” said Raisa Chernina, founder of the Be Proud Foundation, a local organization dedicated to Russian-American U.S. Service members and who lobbied to get the co-naming.

“It expresses disrespect to the U.S. troops and sends a negative message not only to our community, but to our nation as a whole,” she added.

Among those at the protest was Alex Pressman, a former Marine who lost a leg after stepping on a land mine in Iraq six years ago.

“It’s crucially important to get the sign back,” said Pressman, who came to Brighton Beach from Russia at 16 and joined the marines at 18 in 1996.

“It’s important for us as a community to remember its sons and brothers and loved ones who were lost in the war, and for regular people to know that it’s every day people are over there fighting for America,” he added.

Community Board 15 Chair Theresa Scavo said shortly after hearing the sign was stolen, she contacted the city’s Department of Transportation several times to get a replacement.

“They told me the replacement had to go through Borough Engineering, and here it is February, and the sign is still not replaced,” she said.

At the protest, City Councilmember Mike Nelson’s representative Steve Zeltzer said Nelson’s office also tried contacting the DOT to get the sign replaced, but to no avail.

Following the protest, Zeltzer called this newspaper to report that after calling the DOT again, they were told a new replacement sign would be up within a week.