A recent report from the city’s Police Department found that the number of hate crimes in the five boroughs is nearly double the amount during the same period of time last year. Across the nation, nearly 100 Jewish organizations have been the target of bomb threats since the beginning of the year, while a study by California State University’s Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism found that hate crimes rose more than 20 percent last year and were fueled by the presidential election.
This past week in Astoria, a group of elected officials representing the neighborhood discovered graffiti using homophobic language to describe former President Barack Obama scrawled on their offices. And in Jackson Heights, a Long Island man is alleged to have shouted anti-gay slurs at two transgender women and physically attacked them outside a McDonald’s on 82nd Street.
In the wake of President Donald Trump’s campaign and election— one that was marked by attacks on Muslims and other immigrants— bigots of all stripes have been emboldened. The incidents of the past week are only further proof of this.
At a recent rally to decry hate in the five boroughs, Councilman Paul Vallone called for Mayor Bill de Blasio to allocate more funds in the next fiscal year budget to provide additional resources to the NYPD’s Hate Crime Task Force. This is a good call.
And City Council members gathered at City Hall this month to call for a $25 million security grant to protect Jewish, Muslim and other community institutions threatened by hate crimes. This is another great proposal.
In the meantime, as the city figures out the further steps it needs to take to combat the rise in hate crimes, Queens should continue to rally around those who are most vulnerable. Law enforcement officials need to continue to crack down on those whose intolerance leads them to criminal behavior. Our elected officials need to denounce every instance of hateful behavior and propose legislation that increases punishments for those who violate the law.
Queens is the most diverse county on the planet and it’s a borough that has made room for hundreds of languages and numerous creeds, with the exception of one— intolerance.