Nassau County rallies to condemn racism and celebrate diversity
On March 16, the Great Neck Chinese Association’s (GNCA) welcome banner hung adjacent to the Middle Neck Road bridge over the LIRR tracks was defaced with a racial slur. The GNCA, local elected officials, and the Nassau County Police Department have immediately addressed this act of hate. Since then, the sign has been replaced with a clean one and the Nassau County Police Department is investigating the hate crime.
On March 23, the Village of Great Neck Plaza and the GNCA hosted a press conference to condemn the hate crime and provide the public with an update on the Nassau Police Department investigation.
Great Neck Plaza Mayor Ted Rosen said, “Let’s make no mistake. This is an act of hatred, and let’s be very clear: there is no room for hatred in the Village of Great Neck Plaza, in the community of Great Neck, in Nassau County, or anywhere in our country. Let’s also be very clear that an act of hatred against any one person or against any one group is an act of hatred against all of us, and we must deal with it as such.”
The Village of Great Neck Plaza prides itself on being a diverse and welcoming community. Earlier in the week, Great Neck Plaza was ranked by Niche.com as the thirteenth best place to live in America. The ranking includes grades for public schools, housing, jobs, commute, diversity and more. Mayor Rosen shared that he is proud that Great Neck Plaza received an A rating in diversity and hopes it could be an A plus in the future.
GNCA Co-Presidents Dorothy Feng and Steve Chen represented the GNCA at the press conference. Feng said, “The attack on the banner is not a simple act of vandalism, but it is an attack on a group of residents based on our ethnicity. More importantly, this is an attack on the ideas of tolerance, acceptance, and the celebration of diversity. We stand as one community united against racism.”
Government officials, local religious organization leaders, and community members joined the conference to condemn the hate crime together and show the GNCA support.
Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman said, “In Nassau County, our hate crimes are way down, and the reason for that is we have zero tolerance for these types of acts that are done to create fear and terror in people of various ethnic groups, religions and races.”
Blakeman applauded the police department and community for standing together to make Nassau County a diverse area. To ensure that hate crimes continue to be rare or non-existent in Nassau County, Blakeman said that Nassau County will continue to give 100 percent in tracking down and arresting those who engage in hate crimes and continue to educate the population on our wonderful and diverse community.
Nassau County Legislator Mazi Melesa Pilip (District 10) said, “What happened to the Great Neck Chinese Association banner was vile. Fighting hate is not about Democrats or Republicans. It’s about us. It’s about our children, our community and the future of this county.”
Town of North Hempstead Supervisor Jennifer DeSena said, “The town of North Hempstead has worked very hard to help foster a community that values acceptance, respect, and inclusion for all individuals. We have beautiful diversity in the town, and I promise that this will never change. We will always stand here and send the message that hate will not be tolerated here, not in our town.”
Town of North Hempstead Councilwoman Veronica Lurvey spoke about her responsibility to the community in these situations and expanded upon her efforts to promote diversity and inclusion.
“Recently, the Asian American Advisory Committee at the Town of North Hempstead responded to concerns raised by the town’s Asian American advisory task force by initiating bystander hate crime training. It was so well received that we plan on offering more in the future,” said Lurvey. “We’re also exploring additional programming, including leadership training, workshops for AAPI (Asian American Pacific Islander) professionals, government internship opportunities for AAPI, events to celebrate AAPI diversity and targeted assistance for seniors in their languages.”
Nassau County Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder and police officers from the sixth precinct are handling this investigation and gave the village an update on their work. Commissioner Ryder shared that at this time last year, hate crimes against the Asian community was at 15 percent and this year it is at eight percent, meaning a 50 percent reduction.
“We are always going to give a hundred percent no matter what the community is. We’re doing everything we can because of the cooperation we get from the community,” said Commissioner Ryder. “Crime photos have been taken, crime scene has been out here. Detectives are pulling videos in the community. We’re running our license plate readers that are out there. We’re working with our partners in New York City to see if they have anything like that in the city. And then we’re also working with our communities. If you see something, say something, please.”
Former Congressional candidate Robert Zimmerman, ERASE Rascim President Laura Harding, Temple Emanuel of Great Neck Rabbi Dr. Robert S. Widom, and Assemblywoman Gina Sillitti’s representative Christine Liu all spoke in support of GNCA and celebrating diversity. Taking time to not only condemn hateful acts but celebrate differences is important to Great Neck and Nassau County as a whole.
“As representatives for the Great Neck Chinese Association, we are so thankful for the outpouring support from local leaders, the police and our neighbors. I think what makes America great is our diversity. Each one of us brings a little bit of uniqueness to the table,” said GNCA Co-President Chen.