The de Blasio administration plans to open its Office for the Prevention of Hate Crimes next week, about two months ahead of its effective date under City Council law, a spokeswoman from the mayor’s office said Friday.
“New York City wholeheartedly rejects any form of hatred or bigotry. We’ll be opening our Office for the Prevention of Hate Crimes (OPHC) next week to ensure New Yorkers across all five boroughs feel supported, safe, and respected,” deputy press secretary Avery Cohen said, adding that she was “unsure” which day the office would launch.
OPHC, operating under the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice, will be tasked with coordinating city agencies’ responses to hate crimes as well as developing prevention strategies.
Council members Mark Levine, Donovan Richards and Chaim Deutsch had called on de Blasio to open OPHC now, as he said he would, citing several recent anti-Semitic attacks in the city.
A Jewish man wearing religious clothing was punched in the face and hit with a rock while exercising in Lincoln Terrace Park in Crown Heights on Tuesday, police said. The suspect, who had no prior interactions with the victim before the attack, was still on the loose Friday afternoon, according to cops.
Earlier this month, four men were charged with assault and robbery in connection with three incidents targeting Jewish men in Williamsburg, police said.
The NYPD hate crimes unit and NYS Police hate crimes task force are investigating both cases.
“The City of New York, together with the mayor and the City Council, have an obligation to guarantee the safety and security of every community that calls New York home," the council members said in a joint statement Friday morning. "We must advance a robust agenda against hatred and aggression in every form and ensure our city government is confronting this threat in a sustained and strategic fashion.
"This new office will be an important tool to coordinate among a variety of agencies to promote awareness and prevention, ensure proper investigation and prosecution of hate crimes, and monitor the impact of these heinous acts on our neighborhoods."
When de Blasio first announced OPHC would open early, his office noted that the number of hate crimes between January and May rose by 64 percent compared to the same time period in 2018, and that 60 percent of those incidents were related to anti-Semitism. Hate crime arrests were also up, according to the mayor’s office at the time.
Deutsch, who chairs the council’s Jewish Caucus, said opening OPHC is an "important piece of the puzzle in tackling this issue," adding that he also reached out to ThriveNYC for assistance with mental health resources to address hate and has allocated funds for more NYPD surveillance cameras in his Brooklyn district.
"Ultimately, with all of these different components working together effectively, I believe we can have significant success in reducing hate crimes here in New York City, and understanding where else we must pull resources from to continue to have an impact," he added in response to OPHC’s opening.
Requests for additional comment from Levine and Richards were not immediately returned, as of late Friday afternoon.