BY COUNCILMAN RORY LANCMAN
Earlier this month, the NYPD reported on a disturbing spike in hate crimes across New York City in 2017. The numbers are staggering: from Jan. 1 through Feb. 26, there were 68 hate crimes in New York City, a 55 percent increase compared to the same period last year.
Anti-Semitic hate crimes in particular are the primary driver of this dramatic increase. Bomb threats have been called into Jewish community centers and day schools. Vandals have drawn swastikas in subway cars and on public buildings.
The spike in hate crimes and threats in New York City is extraordinarily serious and it requires a serious response from city government. The sad reality is that anti-Semitism targeting specific communities based on their beliefs is not new, but the intensity and frequency of these recent threats makes it urgent for the city to act.
It is in that spirit that I joined with fellow Council Members to propose the creation of a NYC Security Grant program. Under our proposal, the city would invest $25 million in a competitive grant process for institutions at-risk of being targeted for hate crimes and terrorism, so that these entities have the resources needed to enhance their security. These would be open to organizations of any faith and those that are not faith-based as well.
As it stands today, at-risk institutions throughout the city spend a significant amount of their own resources making sure their buildings are secure and their members are safe. Every dollar spent on vital security from discrimination and harassment is one that cannot be directed towards community development or the services these institutions provide.
I believe that needs to change, especially now with hate crimes on the rise. The mere fact that so many organizations are spending their own funding on safety improvements clearly demonstrates the need for this program.
We are fortunate that the federal government has recognized the direct threat certain institutions face. Every year, the federal government allocates $20 million in competitive grants nationwide to at-risk institutions through its Nonprofit Security Grant program. In 2016, 198 organizations in New York State applied for a grant and 66 received funding.
The state government, too, has put forward a proposal to help enhance public safety. Gov. Andrew Cuomo last month announced his plan to create a $25 million grant program to provide schools and daycare centers at risk of hate crimes with additional resources to stay safe.
This is an important step in the right direction, but more must be done. The federal government has been doing its part. The state government is now going to be doing its part. However, it is time now for New York City to step up and make a key investment in New Yorkers’ protection and safety.