Governor Kathy Hochul on Monday announced a new statewide Hate and Bias Prevention Unit, nested within the state Division of Human Rights, that will educate people across New York on how to spot behavior that could lead to hate crimes.
The governor announced the new effort to combat violent acts motivated by hate during Orthodox Union’s Convening on Combating Anti-Semitism on Manhattan’s Upper West Side Monday morning. She said the unit will visit each of the state’s counties to convene meetings and teach New Yorkers about how they can better detect troubling behavior to prevent more cases of hate-inspired speech or violence.
“It’s not just going to be sitting in a bureaucratic office, this is going to be part of a statewide initiative, going to all 62 counties to educate and also be an early warning system,” Hochul said. “We can be in the prevention business as well, by educating people as to what the signs are. This has got to be a taskforce that is going to go all over the state of New York and have meetings convened and bring together stakeholders and the trusted voices that can rise up with us.”
“This is not just a New York City phenomenon,” she continued. “This is going to penetrate throughout the entire state of New York. That’s how we change people’s hearts and minds.”
The unit will also provide support to communities where a hate crime has already taken place through the formation of a “rapid response team,” according to a release from the governor’s office.
Human rights division Commissioner Maria Imperial said this unit is a way to ensure that New Yorkers of all races, sexualities and belief systems are protected from violent acts of hate.
“Everyone – no matter what color they are, or who they love, or what they believe – should feel safe when they go to work, or go dancing, or visit a house of worship, or send their kids off to school,” Imperial said in a statement. “This new unit will advance our mission of equal opportunity, access, and dignity for all in our state.”
The taskforce will establish 10 councils across the state made up of community members in each area that will provide a space for people to voice concerns, host educational programming, conduct trainings on hate crime prevention and coordinate the filing of complaints with the human rights division.
Additionally, the unit is charged with implementing a law – signed by Hochul late last month – that calls for the creation of a statewide campaign to promote acceptance and inclusion. The campaign will work in conjunction with public and private entities such as local municipalities, community organizations and houses of worship.
The governor’s announcement comes as New York has experienced a series of high profile hate crimes over the past couple of years. These incidents include a May mass shooting at a Buffalo supermarket that claimed the lives of 10 people and left three wounded, targeting Black people; and what authorities have characterized as a thwarted plot to attack the Jewish community last month.
Earlier this month, Mayor Eric Adams traveled to Athens, Greece, to attend a Mayors Summit Against Anti-Semitism. Following the event, he told reporters he wanted to work closely with social media companies to stop the spread of hate speech on their platforms and called for a moratorium on offering plea bargains to those convicted of hate crimes.
Convening the new unit is necessary, Hochul said, because New Yorkers have a “moral obligation” to speak up if they witness a hate-motivated incident and that those who stay silent become “complacent and complicit” with acts of hate.
“This is a moral obligation that each of us, Jewish or non-Jewish, have to lift up the voices of all,” Hochul said. “And to stand up when an arm is raised or a voice is spewing out evil words, that we stand up. Even if you’re on a subway, you’re on a street corner, you see something. My gosh, that could be your own family member, your own child, your own mother, your own grandmother. Stand up New York.”