Mayor Bill de Blasio made a hastily organized visit to the Chabad Lubavitch headquarters in Brooklyn Friday to reassure the community that the NYPD will be stepping up patrols to prevent further anti-Semitic hate crimes.
The mayor visited the Eastern Parkway Lubavitch headquarters Friday afternoon after the seventh hate crime in as many days hit Jewish communities in Brooklyn and Manhattan. While none of the crimes caused any injuries, officials are concerned that there not be the type of attack that occurred in Jersey City more than two weeks ago that killed two Jewish people from Brooklyn, an immigrant store worker and a police officer.
He also reacted to an incident that occurred right next to the headquarters on Kingston Avenue, in which an unknown liquid was thrown at a 56-year-old Orthodox Jewish man followed by hate filled comments screamed at the victim.
“In the course of this week, seven different hate crime incidents have occurred that make us feel pained in a society that is supposed to show respect for everybody, especially in a season when we should show respect for everybody,” said de Blasio hours before the observance of the seventh night of Hanukkah.
“We are going to have clear, strong NYPD presence here at this crucial location. We are going to make sure there is continued police presence here an also in the neighborhoods of Crown Heights Williamsburg and Borough Park,” the mayor added. “We know people are worried – they are scared right now, they see these horrible incidents, including what happened here, at 770 Eastern Pkwy. You are going to see the consequences that we will assure will befall anyone that commits a hate crime. I want to remind people that the NYPD will find these perpetrators and they will be prosecuted.”
Orthodox Jewish leaders escorted the mayor into the Lubavitch synagogue, where some parishioners spoke with the mayor and made suggestions about how to deal with the rising hate crimes.
“We have to help them understand that people of all races, that anti-Semitism is a danger to everyone when it starts to grow, everyone is threatened,” de Blasio said. “We have to show real consequences for any acts of hate – and we have to show people who are really worried here in Crown Heights and other communities that the city of New York will stand by them.”
The New York Police Department’s Hate Crime Task Force is also investigating three other episodes that may have been motivated by anti-Semitism recently:
• A man reported that a group of teenagers converged on his 6-year-old son and another boy, 7, and hit them from behind in a Williamsburg apartment building lobby Monday night. The attackers fled.
• A 25-year-old man told police he was walking on a Crown Heights street early Tuesday when a group of people started yelling anti-Semitic slurs at him and one threw a beverage at him. The suspects fled. Later the same evening, the 56-year-old man said that a group of people (possibly the same as earlier) approached him, and that one of them punched him, while he was walking. No arrests have been made.
Reactions to the mayor were mixed among local residents.
“He’s ineffective,” said Phil Brownstein, a Crown Heights resident and congregant at the synagogue said of the mayor. “The quality of life here has gone down the drain since Giuliani left office. The mayor is partly to blame, but he doesn’t get along with Cuomo, and it’s the state legislature that has made it so that all these broken window crimes can’t be prosecuted.”
“It’s not safe – the weak are being picked on and it’s a bunch of punks and bullies and they are being given baseball tickets to go home after they have caused a crime,” said Hershel Garfinkel, who wore a a sticker “Make Crown Heights Safe Again.” He also said he was a staunch supporter of President Donald Trump – and screamed that support to de Blasio as he walked up to the podium. He then heckled the mayor, despite some in the crowd who tried to quiet him.
“There are attacks every single day and its time to make this neighborhood safe again,” said Garfinkel, adding that he thought the mayor was “soft on crime.”
Rabbi Chanina Sperlin, executive vice president of the Crown Heights Jewish Community Council, escorted the mayor through the jammed synagogue and through the crowds of Jewish onlookers.
“It was beautiful what he said,” exclaimed Rabbi Sperlin, but he took a wait-and-see attitude on the city’s actions against these crimes.
“We talked about the additional things we would like to see with the mayor to deal with the crime. When we get that, we will feel good,” he said.