In response to the alarming rise in hate crimes in New York City, members of the City Council’s Jewish Caucus and a diverse coalition of Council Members, city leaders, and nonprofit institutions called last week on the City to fund a $25 million security grant program to increase safety at community centers and cultural institutions at risk of being targeted in such attacks.
The coalition of Council Members is responding to the dramatic increase in hate crimes and attacks in NYC, which have risen at a rate outpacing the national trend, even conflicting with the City’s overall 2.8% decrease in crime this year. In fact, hate crimes in NYC are up by over 54% compared to this point in 2016. This increase has been driven in particular by a more than doubling of anti-Semitic hate crimes, including bomb threats against a variety of Jewish community institutions and advocacy organizations.
The federal government and New York State both fund programs designed to improve safety and security at schools and daycare centers at risk of being targeted in hate crime attacks. Council Members called for the creation of a companion City-funded security grant program to assist community centers and cultural institutions that are considered at risk of being targeted because of their ideology, beliefs, or mission. The grant funds would help local institutions pay for security upgrades to their facilities and/or cover the costs of increased and enhanced security staffing.
Joining Council Members Levine and Lancman, who are leading the call for this program, was City Comptroller Scott Stringer; Council Members Menchaca, Greenfield, Cabrera, Grodenchik, and Johnson; and leaders from the 92nd Street Y, the Museum of Jewish Heritage, the Met Council, and the Jewish Community Relations Council.
While the existing federal and state programs mainly focus on school security, the coalition of city leaders and nonprofits called for City funding that would prioritize community centers, cultural institutions, and advocacy organizations. Such a program would be open to institutions at risk of being targeted in hate crimes across a variety of classes of animus.
Council Member Mark Levine, Chair of the Jewish Caucus said, “We are here today to respond to an unprecedented rise in hate crimes across New York City. Though there are state and federal programs to enhance security for at-risk schools and daycare centers, our city’s community centers and cultural institutions, which have been repeatedly targeted in recent months, are left with nowhere to turn for help in meeting their security needs. When hate crimes and threats occur, they are not just an attack on innocent victims, but on the values we share as New Yorkers.
Council Member Rory Lancman said, “I am proud today to stand with my colleagues in the City Council to call on the City to make this crucial investment in a Security Grant program that will help protect at-risk locations. In the face of rising anti-Semitism and hate crimes in New York City, we must take action to best ensure the security of at-risk NYC community centers and cultural institutions. The security grant program will be an essential resource to keep New Yorkers safe.”
Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. said, “In today’s tumultuous times, our community centers and cultural institutions have been subject to an unfortunate rise in threats and other hateful acts. This grant program would help increase safety and security at our most at-risk facilities, and I am proud to join my colleagues in the City Council’s Jewish Caucus, as well as other City Council members and elected officials and advocates from all over the city to ensure that all New Yorkers are safe from harm and protected from hate. A rise in hateful acts must be met with a forceful response, and this grant program will help do just that.”
“In the face of a spike in hate crimes, we must act to protect the cultural and religious institutions that anchor our communities,” said Manhattan Borough President Gale A. Brewer. “This step offers practical support to the institutions that need it, and sends a clear message to those who seek to intimidate and spread fear that our city will not be a safe space for their hate. I thank my colleagues on the Council for leading on this issue.”
Council Member Carlos Menchaca said, “When hate tears at the fabric of our communities, we must be more than vigilant. We must speak out and take action. We’ve long recognized that our City neighborhoods need resources to protect themselves. Now we must include religious and cultural institutions that are facing an unprecedented spike in vandalism, threats, and violence. The threat is real, the risk is rising, and we must respond together. We must fund a substantial Security Grant Program to protect cultural and religious institutions throughout the City.”
Council Member Ritchie Torres said, “New York City has seen a brash increase in hate crimes, each day surpassing the previous year’s number of crimes, particularly against the Jewish community. This grant is needed and will go a long way in protecting residents. Hate will not be tolerated in the city known not only for its bright lights and big names but for its inclusion and open arms.”
Council Member Robert Cornegy said, “Sadly, there are those in our society who are openly hostile and believe that hurting others somehow gives them a sense of entitlement or purpose. Hate crimes have risen in our city. These criminals are growing bolder. As such, we must work harder to protect our citizens against these acts of indifference. We must continue to send a message to perpetrators that crimes motivated by bigotry and hatred will not be tolerated in our city. I support the financial investment for enhanced security safeguards to assist houses of worship, community centers, and other institutions, which may be at high risk for hate crimes.”
Council Member David G. Greenfield said, “There is no place in our city or anywhere for acts of prejudice and hatred. I am proud to stand against bigotry with Councilman Mark Levine and my colleagues on the City Council. I was proud to sponsor Intro 65, which provides free security guards for students at religious schools throughout the city. This law has provided peace of mind to thousands of parents and families. Now, in the wake of an unprecedented spike in hate crimes and bias incidents, it is time for the City to commit to protecting community centers and cultural institutions as well.”
Council Member Rafael Espinal said, “In the wake of the most unimaginable genocide in modern history, emerged a solemn motto: ‘Never again.’ Now, it is time to ensure that we live up to this proclamation by demanding tolerance and peace against the ugly face of hate – wherever it may appear. But, we must also put our dollars where are values are and ensure that our cultural and religious centers have the means to be safe and protected. With so many threats against our immigrant and religious communities, security should not be taken lightly. As a representative from a large Muslim community and the founder of a Holocaust survivors’ initiative, I strongly support this proposal, which will enable these essential community institutions to live and thrive in our neighborhoods so that ‘Never again’ may live in both word and action.”
“Hates crimes and acts of violence, particularly anti-Semitic threats, are rising at alarming rates, not only in New York City but across the country,” said Council Member Andrew Cohen. “I condemn these hateful acts and join my colleagues in calling on the City to fund this $25 million security grant program to protect community centers and cultural institutions. America’s strength is our diversity and all Americans must unite together against such hatred.”
“We can’t just sit by while we see more and more hate crimes and bomb threats targeted at religious centers,” said Council Member Donovan Richards (D-Far Rockaway). “We must come together as a city and be proactive in protecting local institutions that help foster peace in our communities only a daily basis. I’d like to thank Council Member Levine for his efforts to create this security grant program and I look forward to working with him to keep our communities safe for all New Yorkers.”
Council Member Chaim Deutsch said, “Over 100 Jewish cultural centers nationwide and here in New York City have been the targets of bomb threats and hateful messages. In my district, a Muslim mosque was also subject to a threatening note directed at the imam. It is more important than ever that we do our part to ensure that these institutions and the community members who utilize their services are protected. I join with my colleagues in calling for a $25 million grant to provide security staffing and upgrades to vulnerable institutions.”
Council Member Mark Treyger said, “Our city’s local community centers and cultural institutions are places where New Yorkers gather and celebrate our diversity. That’s exactly why these locations – and those who visit them – must be safe and secure. The disturbing wave of hate crimes that has recently hit New York City must remind us that attacks or behavior targeting any one group are really targeting all of us, because we are all in this together, and I stand with my colleagues to call for this much-needed program.”
“Our historical moment calls not for retreat but for bold response, expansion of educational opportunities, and inclusivity,” said Michael S. Glickman, President and CEO of the Museum of Jewish Heritage – A Living Memorial to the Holocaust. “As an institution that protects the historical record, promotes understanding of heritage, and stands with vulnerable groups in the name of humanity, we applaud the City Council for its efforts to address and strengthen the infrastructure and preparedness of similar institutions across this great city.”
Alan Schoor, Executive Director of the Met Council, said, “We are heartened that the City Council’s Jewish Caucus and a diverse coalition of Council Members has taken the lead in obtaining funding to increase safety at Jewish institutions and other targets. This is a time when we need to bond together to fight the hate and ignorance of anti-Semitism and the threats of anti-Semitic acts, both in New York City and nationally. We provide services through our JCCs to many different cultures in their own communities, and there is a need for them to receive their benefits in a safe environment and this funding will enable us to do so.”