Rabbi David Niederman, executive director of the United Jewish Organization of Williamsburg, center left, joins City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, center right, in Brooklyn on Monday. Photo Credit: Corey Sipkin
With a spike in reports of anti-Semitic hate crimes in New York City, Council Speaker Corey Johnson is calling on the mayor to fully fund a new prevention initiative.
Johnson joined rabbis, other elected officials and anti-hate groups in Williamsburg on Monday to address the 82% jump year-to-year in anti-Semitic hate crimes in the first four months of 2019. More recent attacks include one incident on May 7 in which an Orthodox Jewish man was sucker punched in the back of his head.
“No one should feel unsafe over their faith,” Johnson said.
He said police and community leaders have worked hard to bring some perpetrators to justice but stressed there is more work to be done when it comes to preventing hate crimes and the anti-Semitic rhetoric that he said is on the rise around the country.
He urged the mayor to provide full funding in his budget for the Office of Prevention of Hate Crimes, which was approved by the Council in the winter.
The mayor has allocated $336,000 from his executive budget for the office, but Johnson’s office said the initiative will require an additional $139,000 this fiscal year to bring the total up to $475,000. Next fiscal year, Johnson’s office said, the cost will grow to $713,000.
The intention is for the office to have a coordinator, appointed by the mayor, who will work with various agencies on strategies to combat hate crimes. There is currently no clear coordination between the NYPD and the Department of Education for responding to hate crime incidents, according to Johnson.
“This office would do that,” he explained.
Johnson said another role for the new office is to come up with initiatives to teach tolerance to New Yorkers of all ages. Rabbi Joseph Potasnik, the executive vice president of the New York Board of Rabbis, said that would go a long way.
“We talk about the three Rs: reading writing and arithmetic. We need to add another R: respect,” he said. “We need to teach our young people respect.”
While the mayor did not sign the bill to create the Office of Prevention of Hate Crimes when it was passed by the Council in January (it automatically matured into law the next month), he said he supports it.
“In New York City, we celebrate our differences and reject any attempt to hate and divide. That’s why we funded The Office of Hate Crime Prevention to prevent these heinous crimes before they occur. Hate will never be tolerated in this city,” he said in a statement.
Johnson and religious leaders said Monday that there appeared to be a rise in anti-Semitism related to the ongoing measles outbreak in the Orthodox Jewish communities in Brooklyn. The speaker reiterated that the Jewish community advocates vaccination and that only a small group of uninformed people are responsible for spreading dangerous misinformation.