City Councilman Chaim Deutsch (D-Sheepshead Bay, Manhattan Beach, Brighton Beach, Homecrest, Midwood) last week saw the city council unanimously pass his legislation creating a new Mayoral office charged with presiding over hate crimes outreach and education throughout the city.
And the measure couldn’t come soon enough as there have been a rise in hate crimes around the city, including swastikas discovered Liberation Diploma Plus High School, 2865 West 19th Street in Coney Island.
Principal April Leong founded the school in 2007 after previously working in alternative schools with pregnant and suspended students. Diploma Plus is a national network of schools designed to help at risk students earn high school diplomas and go to college. The tiny transfer school serves older students who have accumulated few credits towards graduation and has only 10 classroom teachers.
“It is clear to me that students could benefit from learning about the hateful connotations that come with a swastika, and the painful impact it has on survivors of the Holocaust,” said Deutsch, chair of the Council’s Jewish Caucus, and who himself comes from a working-class background.
“With that in mind, I intend to visit Liberation High School in the next several weeks with Holocaust survivors, who can speak to the students about their firsthand experiences suffering at the hands of the Nazis. On the heels of Holocaust Education Week here in NYC, we must do everything in our power to spread knowledge about what the swastika represents. I look forward to fostering a robust conversation between the teenagers and Holocaust survivors, one that will leave the students with a better understanding of the harm this symbol can cause.”
Under the legislation, which City Council Member Donovan Richards (D-Queens), chair of the council’s Public Safety Committee, co-sponsored, the new office is charged with doing educational outreach and training within New York City communities, to educate people about the impact and effect of hate crimes. The new law will also require the proposed Hate Crime Prevention Office to coordinate with relevant agencies, interfaith organizations, and community groups to implement effective outreach on the subject.
Additionally, the law mandates the Hate Crime Prevention Office to work with the Department of Education to create guidance for educators within the New York City public school system to address issues relating to hate crimes.
Deutsch has been at the forefront of opposing bias and prejudice within the city, standing united with communities that have fallen victim to hate crimes. Just last week, he organized a rally with Asian-American leaders to show support for the families of the victims of a horrific triple homicide at the Seaport Buffet restaurant, where three Asian men were senselessly murdered. He has also worked closely with many different communities, including Jewish residents of Crown Heights, who have recently been victimized by a spate of violent, senseless assaults.
“Hate crimes are unique in that they do not merely victimize the direct subjects of the action or attack. Hate crimes incite terror within an entire community of people, who often become fearful as they go about their daily lives. The Office of Hate Crime Prevention is an innovative solution to a problem that is affecting more and more New Yorkers every day, and I look forward to watching it become an effective tool for the city to wield,” said Deutsch.
Donovan said the city must become more proactive in its’ approach to countering hate crimes.
“The city should be organizing all city agencies and community leaders to create a holistic plan to address this troubling rise in hate, ignorance and fear. The creation of the Office for the Prevention of Hate Crimes will make sure that our city progresses away from the reactive approach to violent hate crimes and continues to strengthen the diverse groups in our communities that make our City so strong,” said Donovan.
“Wrapping the Department of Education into these conversations ensures that we are teaching our youth about the value of our diversity in New York City while empowering them to be the driving force for tolerance as we move forward,” he added.