BY COSTA CONSTANTINIDES
This rising wave of anti-Semitic attacks in and around New York City is sickening, disheartening, and disgraceful.
Here in Queens, we take pride in being the most diverse place on Earth. But that can no longer just be a talking point on tourism literature. The Jewish community — and all those threatened by hate-filled violent acts — want action to combat domestic terrorism. It’s time to close out of Twitter, put down the phone, and roll up our sleeves.
It’s on all elected officials to ensure anti-Semitism and all forms of hate are nipped in the bud.
In October, I proposed creating a Department of Diversity & Outreach within the Queens Borough President’s Office. Politics aside, whoever wins this race should refocus staff to counteract the national wave of xenophobia and white nationalism. We need to transform the conversation and the interactions of our communities by directing more resources education, public safety, and outreach.
A Department of Diversity & Outreach should be the go-to place for Community-Based Organizations who know their blocks better than anyone else. They should have a direct line to Borough Hall when a piece of racist graffiti pops up or a targeted attack unfolds.
These smaller incidents can sometimes be a sign of things to come in a neighborhood. We must also employ people who reflect these neighborhoods, so that there is a member of the Jewish community who can serve as a trusted, knowledgeable liaison.
The Queens Borough President should play a role working with the Mayor’s Office to ensure more funding for programs that promote understanding, spread the world about a proposed hate crime, or step up police presence if necessary.
The next Queens Borough President should also put a renewed focus on having their staff in communities as well. With satellite offices in key locations throughout the borough, our residents will have a place where staff speak their language, so they may confidentially report acts of hate or bigotry. We need to show neighborhoods now more than ever that their governments will not abandon them.
Whoever takes this office must also serve as chief spokesperson for the more than 2.3 million people who call Queens home. That means working with our state partners to make New York State the national leader against domestic terrorism. We must send a message that anyone who attacks one of us, to strike fear into their hearts, is attacking all of us. And we will respond with justice for those crimes.
These are uncertain times in which no single person will have all the answers. Democracy dies in that kind of vacuum. As the son of a Jewish mother, I cannot overstate the risks of not working together — or sitting idly by, with thoughts and prayers, in hopes someone else will come along to solve the problem.
It’s time for us all to act.
Costa Constantinides is a candidate for Queens Borough President. He currently represents Astoria and Rikers Island as well as parts of Woodside, Jackson Heights, East Elmhurst and Long Island City in the New York City Council, where he also chairs the Committee on Environmental Protection.