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Queens lawmaker announces legislation to help combat hate crimes

Senator Toby Ann Stavisky (c.) speaks at a press conference at Real Playground in Rego Park, where an Asian American teenager was attacked. (Courtesy of Stavisky's office)

Following a recent hate crime against an Asian American teenager, Senator Toby Ann Stavisky was joined by Queens elected officials on Monday, May 10, to announce a legislation to combat hate crimes.

Stavisky held a press conference at Real Good Playground, located at 62-01 99th St., with Assembly member Andrew Hevesi and Councilwoman Karen Koslowitz, along with Miaoqing Lu and her son, Leo Cai, the 15-year-old victim who was assaulted and called anti-Asian names at the park. The attack is one example of the rising violence against the Asian American community in the city and across the country. Cai was attacked by five teenagers, three of whom have been arrested, according to Stavisky. 

(From l. to r.) Miaoqing Lu and her 15-year-old son, Leo Cai, with Senator Toby Ann Stavisky and Councilwoman Karen Koslowitz. (Courtesy of Stavisky’s office)

“These perpetrators are being charged and will, I hope, be held accountable for their actions. As legislators we need to be doing more to prevent these acts from occurring and reoccurring,” Stavisky said. “It is not enough to simply punish attackers after their crimes. The ‘fear of the other’ is a tool that has been used to drive division within communities for centuries. This legislation will help educate those who harbor baseless resentments and prevent them from acting out against others in hate.”

Stavisky has partnered with Assemblywoman Rebecca Seawright (D-Manhattan) and is sponsoring legislation (S6570) that would mandate counseling and education for anyone convicted of a hate crime. 

“Hate has no place in New York state. In response to the disturbing rise in hateful acts of violence, including attacks on my district office, I have introduced legislation (A1202) to mandate ‘anti-hate’ training, education and counseling for every person convicted of a hate crime,” said Seawright, who joined Stavisky at the press conference. 

According to Seawright, education is central to promoting tolerance and respect for others and is essential to keeping communities safe. 

“I am pleased to stand beside Senator Toby Ann Stavisky as she becomes the Senate sponsor of our legislation to push for the passage of this critical legislation. This legislation is key to confronting the surge of hate crimes we have witnessed in our city and state of New York,” Seawright said. 

Miaoqing said as racial hate hits close to home, “Let’s work together to eliminate prejudice and hatred in our hearts and create a friendly and just society for our next generation.” While her son said, “We must learn to forgive, forgive ourselves, and forgive those who hurt us. Help them grow, which also helps us grow ourselves.” 

Congresswoman Grace Meng, who introduced the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act that was recently passed by the Senate, said there are several components to combatting the ongoing hate and violence against Asian Americans, and that includes counseling, education, and other resources. 

“These must be part of the approach as well, and I thank Senator Stavisky and Assemblywoman Seawright for working to make that happen in New York state,” Meng said. 

Meanwhile, Koslowitz said that combining mandatory counseling with whatever penalty the court deems appropriate is truly the only hope for changing the behavior of a perpetrator of a hate crime. 

“Solely incarcerating an individual convicted of a hate crime is not going to change that individual’s mindset,” Koslowitz said. 

Hevesi said the uptick in hate crimes against Asian Americans is “wholly unacceptable,” saying that the attack on Lu should have never happened. 

“I am proud to support legislation introduced by Assembly member Seawright and Senator Stavisky to require individuals convicted of hate crimes to undergo mandatory training or counseling in hate crime prevention and education,” Hevesi said. “Education, understanding and standing together to call out hate whenever it occurs are how we will combat this blatant racism.” 

The legislation has been referred to the Senate Codes Committee, with the Assembly bill (A1202) was reported out of the Assembly Codes Committee and to the floor for a potential vote.

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