Gov. Hochul signs anti-bias bills, urges N.Y. to combat ‘rising tide’ of hate

Tim Balk

Originally published in Daily News

Responding to a spate of hate crimes in the city and across the U.S., Gov. Hochul signed a pair of anti-bias bills Tuesday and called on New Yorkers to reclaim the state from bigots who have butchered communities’ sense of security.

Hochul, who led the state through the racist Buffalo massacre last spring, said that a horrifying mass shooting at an LGBTQ nightclub in Colorado and a sinister anti-Semitic plot foiled in New York over the weekend offered “painful reminders that there is a rising tide of hate in our country.”

“This is our defining moment, New Yorkers,” the governor declared in an emotional news conference in Midtown Manhattan.

“Every one of us has a role to play,” Hochul said. “From this day forward, ask yourself: Did I do something to help spread the love that should be part of who we are as New Yorkers?”

Hochul, a Democrat, signed legislation establishing a statewide inclusion campaign and requiring people convicted of hate crimes to undergo mandatory hate crime prevention training.

“We’ve had a very difficult week,” said state Sen. Anna Kaplan, a Long Island Democrat and a child of a Jewish family who fled religious violence in Iran in her youth. “It’s up to us to come up with ways to show that hate has no room in our communities.”

The state plans to launch regional community listening sessions, Hochul said, and to disburse $50 million in nonprofit grants through its so-called Securing Communities Against Hate Crimes Program.

The program has already awarded $83 million to more than 600 organizations, the governor said.

The announcement and bill signing came with reported hate crimes in the city up by 16% this year, according to NYPD data, and by 129% in two years.

The numbers reflect growing anxiety about anti-Asiananti-Blackanti-gay and anti-Semitic hostilities, with society frayed by two tough pandemic years, and with strains of extremism emboldened by the Trump years.

On Saturday night, a rifle-wielding shooter decked in body armor stormed into an LGBTQ club in Colorado Springs and opened fire, killing five people and wounding an additional 25.

The same night, a man hurled a brick at a window of VERS, a gay bar in Midtown Manhattan that had been the site of similar terrible attacks in previous days, according to the police.

On Friday, cops in Penn Station busted two 22-year-olds accused of plotting an attack on an unspecified synagogue. The men were carrying an illegal firearm and a long knife, according to authorities.

After the incidents, Hochul said the New York State Police would be increasing its surveillance efforts in communities at risk for hate crimes.

And Mayor Adams pledged that the NYPD would be on alert in the weeks leading up to Chanukah, which starts Dec. 18.

Hochul said Tuesday that recent pernicious plots had created a “crisis that is eating away at the health of our state.” The moment, the governor said, calls for “toughness” and “resolve.”

Social media, she noted, appear to be feeding the challenge. Officials have said cyberspecialists from a Jewish community nonprofit first detected the plot against the synagogue.

Acting State Police Superintendent Steven Nigrelli said authorities are reckoning with “cauldrons of hate” brewing deep on social media.

The state has limited power to scrub hate from social media due to federal laws protecting speech rights on the platforms, Hochul said.

But she pleaded for congressional and court action targeting social media sites. And she called on New Yorkers across the state to work together to stamp out bigotry.

“Anybody who raises a hand or causes harm to a single New Yorker, you’re picking a fight with 20 million others,” she said. “Starting with your governor.”