City Council Members Chaim Deutsch (D-Sheepshead Bay, Manhattan Beach, Brighton Beach, Homecrest, Midwood) and Kalman Yeger (D-Bensonhurst, Borough Park, Gravesend, Kensington, Midwood) yesterday led the way in calling on Mayor Bill De Blasio to provide more security funding towards houses of worship.
The call came as world leaders struggle to secure houses of worship following a series of attacks on synagogues, churches and mosques all around the world. In New Zealand, 51 Muslims were killed by a shooter at a mosque, In the United States attacks in synagogues in Pittsburg and San Diego claimed the lives of Jewish pray-goers, most recently the bombing in Sri Lanka that killed 200 Christian worshipers celebrating Easter and the attempted arson at St. Patrick’s Cathedral church in New York City.
Joining Deutsch and Yeger on the steps of city hall to highlight the issue was Majority Council Leader Laurie Cumbo (D-Fort Greene, Clinton, Hill, Prospect Heights, Crown Heights) and Council Members Mathieu Eugene (Flatbush, East Flatbush, Prospect Lefferts Gardens), Mark Treyger (D-Coney Island, Bensonhurst, Gravesend) and Ruben Diaz Sr. (D-Bronx).
“Every time an attack that occurs in a house of worship we tend to send out a tweet condemning those actions and sending our condolences. Now we need to take proactive measures and not be reactive. Let’s not send out those condolences, we have to face reality here in New York City and it’s time that this administration funds security for all our houses of worship,” said Deutsch.
Yeger, who this week is introducing a bill calling for armed security guards at houses of worship, said that government has certain very basic obligations and the most predominant of all is to keep its citizenry safe.
“We have to know we will be protected in our houses of worship, in our sanctuaries of peace. We have seen synagogues, churches and mosques under attack all over the world, in the United States, and here in New York. We know that the Mayor cares deeply about our security. Our bill will allow any house of worship to hire a private security guard, submit for reimbursement, and have the City pay the bill. This is our City and our money, and safety in our houses of worship is our most fundamental right,” said Yeger.
Cumbo emphasized safety as the number one cause for bringing forth a team of council members to assure security in houses of worship throughout the city. “In Crown Heights, we have unfortunately incidents of hate crimes that happen far too often. We have to meet in front of our synagogues, our street corners to denounce hate crimes,” said Cumbo.
“And what is so powerful about this legislation is that we’re going to get ahead of the issue. We don’t want a constant AP reactor, we want to make sure that we’re putting our voices out back with strong legislation and even more importantly the resources to make this a reality,” she added.
In a letter addressed to de Blasio, 14 Council Members urged the Mayor to include funding towards worship places in the 2020 fiscal year budget reads, “We must be proactive about ensuring the safety of New Yorkers of faith. Traditionally, houses of worship have been safe havens, sanctuaries and welcoming to all. With proper, long-term security, religious New Yorkers could once again kneel in prayer without looking over their shoulders in fear,” read the letter.
Tryeger, chair of the Education Committee, addressed the lack of funding allocated toward private schools, which includes yeshivas, Catholic schools and institutions for the Muslim community.
“As a reminder to our city leaders, where do you turn to in times of crisis? Where do you turn to when there is a natural disaster? Whether it’s a fatal shooting, an act of terror. We’ve seen the scenes and images of city leaders and other leaders going into a church, into a synagogue or to a mosque to show solidarity,” said Treyger.
“I’ll remind people that in my district if it was not for churches, synagogues, mosques we would’ve lost more life in the response to Super Storm Sandy. So now during this crisis, a crisis that we’re seeing in synagogues, in churches, which also include black churches that we’ve seen shootings and vandalism acts and mosques. They are now turning to us as we’ve always turned to them and we must speak as one single voice that we have your back because you always have ours.”