Byrne: A Victory For Equality And Justice

Editor’s Note: Attached are two letters sent to Gov. Cuomo from Assemblyman Kevin Byrne (R,C,Ref-Mahopac)

Assemblyman Kevin Byrne (R,C,Ref-Mahopac) is pleased to report that Gov. Cuomo has recently agreed to expand eligibility for the Securing Communities Against Hate Crimes Grant Program (SCAHC). The program has been allocated $45 million in grant funding to help organizations vulnerable to hate crimes secure and protect their facilities. Funding is being made available through two separate Requests for Applications under the third round of the landmark SCAHC. Assemblyman Byrne has been the leading advocate in the NYS Legislature to expand the SCAHC’s eligibility so that more houses of worship can apply for assistance.

“I am immensely pleased by the governor joining our call to action,” Byrne said. “The Securing Communities Against Hate Crimes Grant Program, by its very nature, should include areas of worship. By expanding eligibility for this grant and joining all of our communities together, we can help uplift all New Yorkers and ensure all are welcome at the table of prosperity and freedom. I thank and commend Gov. Cuomo for his dedication to equality and for listening to all of us fighting for tolerance, understanding and security.”

From the get-go, Byrne has spearheaded this effort by pushing the governor to expand the list of organizations that are eligible for this program to include more houses of worship. In May 2019, Byrne sent a letter with Sen. Peter Harckham stressing to the governor that “we have a shared responsibility to serve all New Yorkers to ensure that the safety and well-being of our citizens is not compromised.” This was followed by Byrne introducing legislation (A.7852) to include all religious houses of worship for projects concerning both safety and security for at-risk facilities in the grant program. Byrne followed up again in early 2020 with another letter, before the governor’s budget presentation, urging him to expand eligibility requirements so more houses of worship could apply.

In his most recent letter to the governor, Byrne justified the expansion of the program by citing the many tragedies across the state, country and globe. “Last year, we witnessed a shocking rise in anti-Semitic violence in our state. Among the dozens of examples, one of the most revolting was the attack in Monsey at the home of a local Rabbi during the seventh night of Hanukkah. This event only adds to a troubling trend of violence at houses of worship across our nation and around the world. In the past few years, we’ve all seen the breaking news reports of attacks at locations such as the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, Texas; Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh; two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand; as well as the attacks that killed hundreds of people attending church service Easter morning in Sri Lanka.”

Byrne continued, “These tragedies have reminded people what violent, extreme hatred can do. Whether the attacks are made by a crazed ideological fanatic or a psychopath, these sacred places have become greater targets for domestic terrorism and hate.

“The people of New York crave action. The expansion of this important program is one way our state can help answer that call to action.”