Nick Collela was abruptly cut off by the chair after expressing a desire to run over his Jewish neighbors with his car.
New York State Governor Kathy Hochul on Friday directed the NY State Police Hate Crimes Task Force to investigate reports of violently antisemitic rhetoric heard at a town planning meeting earlier this week in Rockland County.
“I have directed the State Police Hate Crimes Task Force and the New York State Division of Human Rights to assist local leaders responding to this incident,” Hochul tweeted on Friday.
“Hateful, antisemitic speech will not be tolerated,” she continued. “We will do everything we can to protect our communities from this abuse.”
The incident in question took place on Wednesday night at a Planning Board meeting in Haverstraw, Rockland County, that discussed the growing Orthodox Jewish community in the area.
One speaker — identified by an antisemitism watchdog group as local resident Nick Collela — was abruptly cut off by the chair after expressing a desire to run over his Jewish neighbors with his car.
Collela remarked that if he happened to hit an individual “from a certain sect of people” with his vehicle, “of course, I’m gonna back over them again.”
In response, the chair told him, “Ok, sir, your time is up. Please go and sit down.” As Colella refused to budge from the podium, the chair said, “No, no, you’re done.” When Collela protested “I’m not done,” another councillor intervened, telling him, “You’re finished right now. Sit down. I’ll call you later.”
Local news outlet Lohud reported on Thursday that Haverstraw Police Chief Peter Murphy would be meeting with the Rockland County District Attorney’s Office to determine if Collela’s statement was a threat and if any laws were broken.
“It’s extremely sad and dangerous when an individual gets up in front of a public meeting and makes vicious statements and a threat to harm any person in our town,” Haverstraw Supervisor Howard Phillips commented.
“Haverstraw has always been a true melting pot of all cultures and religions,” Phillips said. “We have never tolerated hate speech in any form.”
In her initial reaction to the incident, Gov. Hochul expressed her concern at “reports of violent rhetoric towards our Jewish community at a town meeting in Rockland County.”
“Antisemitism, like all forms of hate, is horrifying and unacceptable,” Hochul added. “Everyone has the right to walk down the street without fear. New York, we are better than this.”