NEW YORK—Late last month, a Columbia University professor said she almost passed out when she opened the door to her office. Vandals had spray-painted two red swastikas and a derogatory word aimed at Jewish people on the wall.
This disturbing incident was not isolated. In a more recent incident, a man wearing a shtreimel—a hat worn by some Hasidic Jewish men—was punched in the head in an unprovoked attack on the sidewalk in Brooklyn. The suspect was arrested and charged with hate crime and assault.
New York council members say hate crime is on the rise and they have called for action to prevent it.
Council members Mark Levine and Donovan Richards introduced a bill in November that would create a new city office dedicated to combating hate-crime incidents.
Levine said at a press conference on Dec. 4 that the new office was necessary as it could work with New York Police Department and schools to support hate crime prevention, as well as support communities that are targeted in these attacks.
He condemned the attacks, describing hatred as “a poison, which none of us are immune.”
“Hatred is a cancer that metastasizes and we’re standing here—a diverse group of leaders—to denounce it and call for action,” Levine said.
Congress member Nydia Velazquez (D-NY) announced that she would reintroduce a bill—the Hate Crimes Victims Assistance Act—in Congress that would provide $50 million of federal grants to tackle hate crimes and provide support to victims.
“When a teacher’s office at Columbia is vandalized with swastikas, or when hate language is sprayed in a children’s playground, or when our neighbors [are] attacked [when] they’re speaking Hebrew, then we are all attacked,” Velazquez said.
Hate crimes in the city are up over forty percent since 2011. As of Dec. 4, there have been 331 hate crime incidents, which is up 5 percent compared to the same time last year, officials said at the press conference.
Jewish New Yorkers are the most targeted group with 176 incidents this year. This is up 28 percent since 2017.
Council members are calling for the city to investigate the motives behind the incidents. They added that more needs to be done to prevent the incidents through education and outreach programs, like teaching young people about different cultures and the histories that underlie the acts of hate.
“Ignorance is at the root of so much prejudice,” Levine said.
Other measures announced include promoting inter-group relations among adults and children, training people to work with authorities, and improving data relating to hate crime trends.