Hate crime prevention office underfunded, councilmembers say
The new unit says it needs $475,000 for its first year. The mayor is offering $336,000.
City councilmembers and Jewish community leaders gathered in Williamsburg Monday to address the sharp spike in anti-Semitic incidents in the city this year, and to call on the mayor to fully fund a new office that seeks to prevent hate crimes.
The Office of Hate Crime Prevention, created by the City Council in January, will coordinate between relevant city agencies like the NYPD and district attorneys in their responses to hate crimes, and will review and recommend budget requests for agencies and programs related to hate crimes.
Mayor Bill de Blasio, however, did not include any funding for the new office in his $92.2 billion preliminary budget for fiscal year 2020, which begins July 1. The office needs $475,000 for the first year and $713,000 annually moving forward, according a fiscal impact statement made by the City Council.
“The mayor should have included it both in the preliminary budget — because we passed it months ago — and in the executive budget,” said City Council Speaker Corey Johnson.
A spokesperson for the mayor told the Brooklyn Eagle that the office will receive $336,000 in funding, which they believe is the appropriate amount. “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,” de Blasio said in a statement.
Reports of hate crimes across the city have skyrocketed so far this year, according to police statistics. Fifty-seven percent of all hate crimes were anti-Semitic. The councilmembers and community leaders gathered in Brooklyn, where a recent spate of hate crimes against visibly Jewish people has occurred.
Rabbi David Niederman, director of the United Jewish Organizations of Williamsburg and North Brooklyn, said that Orthodox Jews did not need the NYPD’s statistics to know that there has been a sharp uptick in anti-Semitic attacks. “We felt it here in Williamsburg, in Crown Heights and Borough Park and Queens, and wherever a Jewish community exists. This can no longer go on,” he said.
“In Crown Heights, a Jewish man was called an anti-Semitic slur and he was spat at, in his face,” Johnson said. “And just this past weekend, a couple of days ago, we heard of two teenage boys, two Hasidic boys, who were harassed and frightened in Borough Park, by a man or men, trailing them, yelling, ‘We love Hitler.'”
On May 4, an orthodox Jewish man in Williamsburg was assaulted by a group of men as they shouted anti-Semitic comments at him, according to cops. Just days later, another Jewish man in Williamsburg was punched in the head. A 16-year-old boy was arrested for the second assault, police said.
Johnson stressed the need for “siloed” city agencies to work together to combat hate crimes, and noted that government bureaucracy often leads to them doing work on their own.
If fully funded, the Office of Hate Crime Prevention would employ six full time staff members, including a director, an office assistant, two staff analysts and two community associates. It would provide an annual report on hate crimes in the city, and identify areas and communities particularly affected.
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