Vandals attack BP station in Williamsburg

A BP station on Williamsburg’s Southside was attacked by protesters angry at the ongoing ecological disaster in the Gulf of Mexico.

On May 29, vandals heaved brown paint onto the Hewes Service Station’s towering BP sign, one of five such acts of vandalism that weekend at BP service stations throughout the city, police said.

The action has disturbed station manager Mark Sapozhnikov, who has owned and operated the Hewes branch for 20 years.

The attack came on a Saturday, when the station was closed. When Sapozhnikov returned the next morning, he called the corporate headquarters and set about cleaning his sign, which took three days and cost about $1,500.

Sapozhnikov remains angry that protesters targeted his filling station, which is owned independently from the British petroleum giant whose drilling in the Gulf of Mexico resulted in one of the largest oil spills in the history of the industrialized world.

“I am not corporate BP,” said Sapozhnikov. “I am an independent business owner, a franchisee. BP committed to supplying good quality fuel, and I am committed to selling their product, taking care of the customer and everything else.”

It has been an odd episode in Sapozhnikov’s 20-year history in Williamsburg. He originally opened his station on Kent Avenue as an Amoco franchisee, but the station became a BP outlet eight years ago after the companies merged.

Sapozhnikov, whose station is in the largely Hasidic Southside, is so beloved for his hands-on service that certificates and letters of thanks from members of both feuding Satmar sects are on his office wall.

He said that his high-quality service has allowed him to maintain his business, despite the anger at BP.

“We’ve had the same volume,” said Sapozhnikov. “People need good service.”

Loyal customers, such as Gary Schlesinger, a leader of the Aroni community with the Satmar faith, say that his people are solidly behind Sapozhnikov.

“Whoever committed the vandalism is not from the our community,” he said. “He always helps the synagogue. It is an outside group that did this tsurris with BP.”