Column: Hate crimes are not welcome in our community

Caliente’s was one of several City Island businesses to receive hate mail in October and November 2022.
Photo Aliya Schneider

Whether participating in a local event or meeting with constituents, I see many faces representing the rich diversity that makes up Council District 13. A mix of cultures and religions, the Northeast Bronx truly embodies the vast differences that make our community and New York City whole. In recent months, however, this community has been challenged as several of our neighbors have been impacted by racism and prejudice. There is no place in our community for hate, and as your local representative and someone who has experienced racism, I will not stand for it.

Last year we organized a panel discussion with members of the City Island community, the Simon Wiesenthal Center and the NYC Commission on Human Rights, to address the hate speech and antisemitism infiltrating our communities. We discussed how to manage the impacts of digital hate in the community and the potential consequences of hate crimes. Unfortunately, local eateries Caliente’s, Seafood Kingz, Archie’s Tap & Table and Little Frida, who play a key role in diversifying the cuisine offered on City Island and the surrounding areas, have since been affected by racially and antisemitic-motivated hate mail.

When the businesses reached out to my office about the hate mail, we immediately coordinated with the NYPD Hate Crimes Division to report the letters and began discussing how we as a community can work towards spreading awareness of this issue and how to prevent it from happening again. As I’ve stated before, I remain committed to empowering our local businesses, and I invite you to join me in raising awareness within the community about the reality faced by our neighbors. We cannot continue to allow this hateful rhetoric to infiltrate our communities and create unsafe spaces.

As we continue to navigate through these difficult times, I recall my recent trip to Israel. During my trip, I met with a diverse coalition of locals to learn about their experiences, including racism and prejudice. I found that by immersing yourself in the country and culture, you gain a much different perspective on community based solutions. Many people I met felt their living experience is misconstrued and that there is far more nuance to what is happening than what some may understand. We must take a moment to listen and learn, have tough conversations, and approach each situation with honesty and empathy. Also, to be an effective leader, you must listen to all stakeholders and learn, rather than allow individual grievances or perceptions to sway your position.

While we continue to raise awareness, I encourage you all to call out instances of racial injustice and prejudice. My office will be hosting a hate crime prevention town hall in the near future, and together, we will continue to raise awareness against the inequalities faced in our community. Diversity is a critical component of our genetic makeup, and there is no room for antisemitism or racism. By working together, we will create change.

If you or someone you know has been affected by a hate crime, including racial and antisemitic messages, I urge you to contact the NYPD Hate Crimes Division. If you have any questions or are not comfortable filing a report, please contact your local elected official’s office for assistance. We are in this together, and I do not want anyone to ever feel like they are alone.