BY GABRIELE HOLTERMANN
A score of elected officials gathered on the steps of Queens Borough Hall condemning the rise in bias crimes, particularly against the Asian American and Jewish communities in Queens in recent weeks and the past year on Monday, Feb. 22.
“To those who look at their neighbors with anger and resentment and act on hate: Queens welcomes individuals of all racial backgrounds, ages, faiths and gender identities,” said Queens Borough President Donovan Richards. “If you do not share our values or our shared future, you can gladly leave.”
He described hate crimes as a virus that had been present long before COVID-19. In 2020, New York City saw 27 reported hate attacks against members of the Asian American community. In response, the NYPD created the Asian Hate Crime Task Force to investigate.
In the past two weeks alone, a woman in Astoria was accosted by an individual spewing anti-Asian slurs. In Flushing, 52-year-old victim Lee-Lee Chin-Yeung was allegedly shoved to the ground by 47-year-old Patrick Mateo, who allegedly yelled racial slurs. Chin-Yeung suffered a laceration on her forehead and required stitches.
And in Rego Park, a swastika was painted outside the Rego Park Jewish Center.
“For even just one of these incidents to occur here in Queens, the most diverse county in America is an affront to everything we represent,” Richards said. “But for three to happen in one week, on top of everything our borough has been through over the past year? It’s time to stand and say enough!”
Jo-Ann Yoo, executive director of the Asian American Federation, reported that her organization had received 500 reported cases of hate incidents in New York City but said that the number is much higher.
“People don’t want to go public; they don’t want to report. I’ve so many New Yorkers cry because they are afraid,” she explained.
Michael Miller, vice president of the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York, agreed with the borough president, comparing hate to a virus. A virus that is going to continue to destroy and result in the unspeakable if not addressed. While he has faith in law enforcement, he also emphasized that the root causes need to be addressed.
“We, as civic and community leaders, need to do more. Children are not born as haters. If they can be taught to hate, we need to be there first, to educate, to model, to accept, to love. We need to tear down the silos and robustly engage in coalition building,” Miller said.
NYPD Chief of Detectives Rodney Harrison made it clear that the NYPD is committed to investigating every single hate crime early and identifying the perpetrators and bringing them to justice.
“That’s why we created our hate crimes task force. We have 25 investigators that speak 11 different dialects that are willing to work with all New Yorkers. But we cannot do it by ourselves,” he said before urging New Yorkers to come forward if they have any information.