The two stones, which are located in a park in Queens Plaza called Dutch Kills Green, are estimated to be at least 200 hundreds years old and possibly a relic from a mill that once operated nearby, according to Bob Singleton of the Greater Astoria Historical Society.
Singleton said he was notified by a community member of the vandalism last week. A photo he snapped of the vandalized millstone shows it was tagged with the word "Patria," in its center, and someone wrote the word "choky" numerous times in what appears to be marker.
The Parks Department removed the graffiti Friday morning, a spokesman said, "using methods recommended by our art and antiquities conservators." The department has notified the NYPD and planned to file a police report of the incident.
But Singleton says the vandalism is further proof that the millstones should be moved from the park to an indoor space where they can be preserved — something he's been pushing for years.
"It's just another chapter in an ongoing problem that hasn’t been solved," he said, saying this is the second time in recent months members of the community have noticed damage — a chunk was discovered missing from one stone a few months back.
"That they’ve been cleaned up doesn't give me assurance," Singleton said. "If anything, the recent history of these millstones since they’ve been taken from their location has unfortunately proven us correct in being concerned for them."
Singleton says he wants to sit down with city officials to come up with a solution before the stones get damaged again.
The Greater Astoria Historical Society has offered to house the artifacts, where they could be studied by experts and put on view for the community, Singleton said.
They've also offered to help find replicas of the relics for the park, so the historical significance of the items could still be on display there.
Though the exact origins of the stones are unknown, Singleton believes they came from a tide mill that used to operate in what is now the Sunnyside Rail Yards, where they were used to crush wheat to make flour.
They were preserved by a local family after the mill was torn down in 1860, and were later embedded in the sidewalk in front of the former Long Island Savings Bank in Queens Plaza. The city decided to put the stones on display in Queens Plaza when it was renovated a few years ago.
Singleton and other community members fought to have the stones moved during that time, as construction of the plaza was going on. The millstones were moved temporarily to a nearby library, but were moved outdoors again when Dutch Kills Green opened.
Singleton says the current location makes the artifacts vulnerable not only to vandalism but to the elements — the cold, the heat, and pollution from a bus stop nearby.
"They really need to be indoors, and need to be inspected by experts," he said.