QUEENS — Trumpgate has hit the usually quiet, tree-lined neighborhood of Kew Gardens.
A fervent supporter of The Donald got so upset when his Trump yard signs were stolen repeatedly that he printed out tens of thousands of fliers offering a $5,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of the suspect.
But Michael Ricatto has also angered some in the community who said he damaged neighborhood trees by posting the fliers.
Ricatto, a Florida real estate investor who owns a house on Abingdon Road, said that his “Trump 2016” signs have been stolen four times since he started putting them up six months ago.
Someone also sprayed "F--k Trump" on a mail box in front of his house.
After the most recent theft, which he said took place on Aug. 18 around 3:40 a.m., he printed 50,000 fliers with a surveillance image of the suspect and hired several people who taped and stapled them to trees and lampposts, he said.
The fliers say that Ricatto offers a $5,000 reward “for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the crook who stole the Trump signs from the lawn of 82-28 Abingdon Road.”
They also claim that Ricatto will give "20% of the net proceeds of the subsequent civil suit for the violation of my first amendment right of free speech.”
“I knew it was going to happen because for the most part New York is a very Democratic state,” Ricatto said.
“But it got to be ridiculous so now I put out a $5,000 reward.”
Ricatto's home also has a "Guns Are Welcome On Premises" sign along with the Gadsden flag, depicting a rattlesnake along with the words "Don't Tread On Me."
“I consider myself a patriot, I believe in the Constitution very strongly, I believe in our Bill of Rights, I believe in freedom of speech which is being thwarted by them taking my signs,” he said Monday morning.
“The signs were on my property, the person trespassed onto my property and took the signs.”
Ricatto said he called 911 after the most recent incident but the police never showed up.
“I guess they were too busy to come to take the report,” he said. “Those guys are busy with real crime.”
The NYPD said Monday that they did not receive a report of the incident.
But Ricatto said that once he receives a credible tip, he will call the police again.
"It's shameful that you steal a sign on somebody's private lawn, especially a political sign," said Dominick Pistone, president of the Kew Gardens Civic Association.
"But I'm also very opposed to putting up stuff on trees and posts."
Pistone said the neighborhood already struggles with a "plague of 'cash for cars' signs" that are being placed around Kew Gardens, "and this is not much better."
He added that local residents "take our trees seriously."
Numerous residents posted their comments on a local Facebook page saying they were upset that Ricatto damaged local trees and expressed concerns about the litter after many of the flyers were torn down.
"Politics aside, I am angry that he stapled his fliers onto the trunks of our graceful mature trees," Michael Perlman, a local historian who also organizes an annual tree giveaway in the area, said in an email.
"Trees add character, are a home to wildlife, offer shade and eliminate pollutants."
Meghan Lalor, a spokeswoman for the Parks Department, said that “damaging trees is against NYC Park rules.”
“Destroying a tree’s protective layers — bark and the inner skin — can expose its sap, the tree’s lifeblood, to parasites and fungus which can have harmful long-term effects including death,” she said.
Minor tree damage is subject to a fine of $100, according to the Parks Department.
Ricatto said that if placing fliers on trees is illegal he won't post them anymore. But he was planning to place more Trump signs on his lawn as well as a large banner on his house. He also plans also going to install more cameras around his property.
He said that he has already received a number of phone calls about the incident. One tipster told him that it was Jesus who stole the signs, he said.