Hochul backs adding rape, arson and other offenses to NY hate crime statute

NEW YORK — Gov. Kathy Hochul heard firsthand from people affected by hate crimes in Manhattan on Thursday ahead of remarks touting a bill package that would add 31 offenses to the state’s statute of hate crimes, including first-degree murder, rape, graffiti vandalism and arson.

Hochul praised the proposed bill package dubbed The Hate Crime Modernization Act at a press briefing at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in Manhattan following a roundtable discussion with various groups targeted by hate crimes.

“We just don’t understand where these forces are coming from, why they feel empowered like never before, why they’re so visible now,” Hochul said, later adding “this (hate crimes) shouldn’t happen here.”

Currently, there are 66 types of hate crimes included in the state’s existing statute. The legislation would include 31 other offenses, including first-degree murder, so long as the intent of the attack was driven by bias or prejudice, according to Hochul.

The bill also has the backing of all of the city’s five district attorneys, who have pitched in to help shape the legislation.

Assemblywoman Grace Lee and state Sen. Brad Hoylman-Sigal, both Manhattan Democrats, introduced the measure in November last year, garnering immediate support. Hochul is seeking to have the measure passed by the legislature, touting it in her State of the State address.

Hate crimes, which became a major concern during the start of the pandemic in 2020, have spiked dramatically since Oct. 7 following the terror attack by Hamas on Israel and the war in Gaza that followed.

According to a report compiled by the Anti-Defamation League, there’s been a nearly 400% surge in the U.S., with Jewish and Muslim people the main target of such hate attacks. New York City experienced a 10% jump in reported hate crimes, going from 608 in 2022 to 669 in 2023, according to NYPD statistics.

“Our community understands that if we leave the door open just a little bit, vandalism quickly escalates to violence,” said Senior Rabbi Chaim Steinmetz of the Congregation Kehilath Jeshurun on the Upper East Side.

Hochul’s budget also includes a proposal to add $35 million to the Secure Communities Against Hate initiative, under which nonprofit groups can apply for grants up to $200,000 for protection against physical or cyber attacks.