NYC Mayor Adams: No plea bargains for antisemitic attacks

New York City Mayor Eric Adams addresses Orthodox Union event on antisemitism, vows to get tough on hate crimes.

By Andrew Bernard, The Algemeiner

New York City Mayor Eric Adams (D) called for the end of plea bargains for the perpetrators of hate crimes on Monday, saying that such assaults should not be “downgraded” to a charge of harassment.

“There should be a no-plea-bargaining rule if you are arrested for hate crimes,” Adams said at an event on antisemitism organized by the Orthodox Union (OU) at the Lincoln Square Synagogue in New York City.

“You assault someone because they’re Jewish, because they’re African-American, because they wear a hijab, because of who they are, because they wear a turban–then you should not not have that assault downgraded to harassment.”

Adams added that he did not believe a single person who has been arrested for a hate crime in New York City has ended up serving time in jail, a statistic he described as “unacceptable.” Adams also said that the relationship between the Black and Jewish communities needed particular attention, citing the successful efforts to restore peace between the communities in Crown Heights as a model to emulate.

The OU event follows high-profile threats to the Jewish community in the New York area and greater nationwide attention on antisemitism following rapper Kanye West’s antisemitic media tirades.

In November, two armed men were arrested at Penn Station after one of the men said he might “shoot up a synagogue.”

While that potential attack was thwarted, Adams said in announcing the arrests that there would be an increased police presence at synagogues in the run-up to and during the Hanukkah holiday.

The meeting also brings a New York State and City focus to the issue of antisemitism after the meeting between Doug Emhoff – husband of Vice-President Kamala Harris – and national Jewish leaders at the White House last Wednesday. George Selim – the Anti-Defamation League’s (ADL) Senior VP for National Affairs, who attended that meeting, told The Algemeiner that social media, celebrity culture, and politics had created a “perfect storm” for the normalization of antisemitic conspiracy theories and tropes.

That new dynamic of antisemitic normalization enabled by technology and the media was a theme that Adams touched on Monday. “Social media has changed the dynamic,” Adams said. “We have to have a full frontal assault on social media and the platforms that are spewing this hate.”

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New York’s Governor Kathy Hochul (D), speaking at the same event on Monday, announced the launch of a statewide Hate and Bias Prevention Unit designed to tackle antisemitic and other hate crimes. Hochul said the new unit would not be 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. “This is going to be a task force 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.”

A statement from the Governor’s office said the unit would be charged with public education and outreach, early warning detection in local communities, supporting communities where a bias incident has occurred, and that it will sit within the New York State Division of Human Rights.

Hate crimes and other bias incidents targeting Jews are typically among the most common bias crimes perpetrated in New York State. In November, the NYPD recorded a 125% increase in antisemitic crimes compared with November 2021, with attacks on Jews accounting for 60% of all hate crimes recorded that month.

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Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas also spoke at the event. Mayorkas, who is Jewish, told attendees that the yarmulke he wore was the same one that his father wore at his Bar Mitzvah 50 years ago Friday, before describing what the Department of Homeland Security is doing to protect Jewish communities, including under the Non-Profit Security Grant Program.

“We distributed a total of more than 139 million dollars to more than 1,000 Jewish organizations around the country, including 53 million dollars to more than 350 organizations in New York and New Jersey alone,” Mayorkas said. “President Biden’s budget for fiscal year 2023 requests that the grant program be increased to 360 million dollars.”