New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio appeared at the Jewish Community Center of Staten Island Tuesday alongside Police Commissioner James O’Neil to meet with Jewish leaders and talk to reporters on the recent increase of anti-Semitism in the city. The visit coincided with a new wave of bomb threats targeting Jewish institutions across the country, including one made against the Anti-Defamation League headquarters in Manhattan.
“This is a moment in time – a moment in history where forces of hate have been unleased. And it is exceedingly unsettling to people who are the victims of that hate, who have that hate directed against them,” de Blasio said.
The Mayor pointed out that hate crimes targeting Muslims and the LGBTQ community are also on the rise, though the most dramatic increase has been in anti-Semitic crimes.
Commissioner O’Neil supplied statistics, showing that there have 100 reported hate crimes in 2017 versus just 47 at this point in 2016.
Of those 100 hate crimes in New York City, 55 have targeted Jews.
“In 2016 it was 19 incidents,” O’Neil said. “That’s why we’re here today.”
In his comments, de Blasio appropriated one of the City’s most ubiquitous mantras–“if you see something, say something”–saying that the lessons learned from fighting terrorism were just as applicable for battling anti-Semitism.
“We learned to take seriously if a package was left on a subway or a bus. We learned to not assume it just might be something that someone left behind innocently,” de Blasio said. “Before 9/11 we didn’t think that way.”
“Well, we’re facing a new threat now. We’re facing a new wave of hatred and bias. We have to address it at the grassroots not just through our government,” de Blasio said.
The choice of Staten Island for the event presented some interesting political optics, as it is the most conservative of all New York’s boroughs and the one that turned most heavily red in the 2016 presidential election…and the 2013 mayoral election.
City Councilmember Joe Borelli, a Republican, also appeared at the event and was asked by reporters whether he agreed with the Mayor that the election of President Donald Trump is related to the rise in anti-Semitism.
“I think the Mayor and I have different worldviews on a lot of thing,” Borelli said. “But what it comes down to is that the Mayor is certainly not my enemy or even adversary when it comes to standing against hate here on Staten Island or citywide and especially so when it is the JCC in my community.”
For his part, de Blasio said that he appreciated Borelli’s comments and went on to echo them.
“This is not a partisan atmosphere or a partisan moment,” de Blasio said. “We are all united in defense of the community. I can say something simple: in a moment like this, everyone should speak up.”