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Racist graffiti prompts Adirondack diversity head to move

Nicky Hylton-Patterson is director of the Adirondack Diversity Initiative

SARANAC LAKE, N.Y. (AP) — The head of a state-sponsored regional diversity program said she’s moving out of an Adirondack village, citing racist graffiti on a railroad bridge that made her feel unsafe.

“I know that was meant for me,” Nicky Hylton-Patterson told the Adirondack Daily Enterprise. “It is a threat to my life and my safety and my peace of mind.”

Hylton-Patterson moved to Saranac Lake from the Bronx in December to take the new position of director of the Adirondack Diversity Initiative, a coalition of groups seeking to make the Adirondacks more welcoming and inclusive to all New Yorkers. She said she’ll keep that position but will move to an undisclosed location.

The graffiti was painted on a railroad bridge along her daily running route. It included slurs, expletives and the phrase “Go back to Africa.” Hylton-Patterson said it was a threat to her and the village’s other Black residents.

The graffiti has been painted over and village police are investigating. But Hylton-Patterson said she was disappointed the village mayor and local chamber of commerce failed to issue statements condemning it.

Mayor Clyde Rabideau told the Enterprise via email that he hopes Hylton-Patterson reconsiders moving. The part-time mayor said he’s “learning how to properly respond” to events related to the nation’s racial unrest, and that he fell short of expectations this time.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Wednesday he’s directing the State Police Hate Crimes Task Force to assist in the village police investigation.

The village recently hung banners downtown saying “Racism is a public health crisis.”

Census data show 93% of the village’s 5,200 year-round residents are white.