(re: “Fieldston shaken in wake of hate vandalism,” Sept. 14)
Hate crimes in any form are a detriment to our society. And when such atrocities occur, communities are left on edge.
Recently, in the Fieldston section of Riverdale, a constituent awoke to find the word “Jew” spray-painted across his front door.
This abhorrent behavior cannot and will not be tolerated in our communities.
It is disheartening that anti-Semitic vandalism found its way into the Riverdale area, which unfortunately is no stranger to these hateful acts. According to the Anti-Defamation League, acts of anti-Semitic vandalism in the state of New York rose by 50 percent last year.
Even more heartbreaking is the fact that one of the alleged vandals is a minor, just 16 years old.
As of this writing, two other suspects caught on surveillance camera are still at large.
Once the New York Police Department catches the remaining perpetrators, the shaken Fieldston community can temporarily breathe a sigh of relief.
But when one problem is solved, so often, another one arises. And that seems to be the reality we’re now facing.
Hate crimes are troubling and inexcusable. But when they’re perpetrated by a minor, it’s even more distressing.
We, as a community, must unite and educate our younger generations about religious tolerance.
Teens deserve second chances, they’re likely not hardened criminals, and tend to be more receptive to altering their behavior.
It’s vital that, from an early age, we teach our children to be accepting of differences, whether it be race, religion or gender.
Still, however, we can’t ignore the ugly anti-Semitic act of vandalism that shook our community.
Following the rash of bomb threats to Jewish Community Centers across the country last winter, including right here in New York City, the Independent Democratic Conference introduced a package of bills aimed to combat hate crimes.
My IDC colleague, Sen. David Carlucci, sponsors a bill that addresses the exact shocking behavior perpetrated in Fieldston earlier this month.
The legislation would create a specified offense for graffiti-making as a hate crime, elevating it to a Class E felony if graffiti is made to target a person’s race, color, national origin, ancestry, gender, religion, religious practice, age, disability or sexual orientation.
I sponsor a similar piece of legislation that would stiffen penalties for bias-related graffiti, and graffiti on religious property.
Both of these bills passed the state senate last session, but stalled in the Assembly.
It would be naïve to think our society could be completely devoid of hate crimes. But we, as elected officials, can surely do our part to help reduce the despicable acts.
I look forward to next January, when the legislative session resumes, where I will continue to fight to pass this package of bills that would promote tolerance, and help deter another repeat of earlier this month.
The author is a state senator representing the 34th District, which includes parts of Bronx and Westchester counties, including the Riverdale/Kingsbridge area.