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Sound Bites: NY may toughen up on hate crimes

Tree of Life Synagogue Vice President Alan Hausman wears a Stronger Than Hate yarmulke during a Commemoration Ceremony in Schenley Park, in Pittsburgh's Squirrel Hill neighborhood, on Oct. 27, 2021.
Gene J. Puskar
Tree of Life Synagogue Vice President Alan Hausman wears a Stronger Than Hate yarmulke.

Good morning. New York lawmakers have proposed a bill that would expand what is considered a hate crime. The number of eligible offenses has increased from 66 to 97. This would worsen the punishment for people who commit crimes fueled by hate, such as gang assault and graffiti. 

Law enforcement officials are trying to curb a rise in hate crimes in the wake of the Israel-Hamas war. 

  • In Suffolk County, a swastika was found in a bathroom stall at Commack High School on Monday. Officials say they will prosecute the hate crimes once the vandal is found. 
  • Also this week, antisemitic symbols and racial slurs were found scribed on a desk and whiteboard at Harry B. Thompson Middle School in Syosset. Its Board of Education plans to form an anti-bias task force to better protect students.

Here’s a bite-sized look at what else we are hearing:

President Biden announced that 25 projects along the Northeast Corridor will receive a combined $16.4 billion in funding. Amtrak will receive $1.6 billion to expand 19 miles of its Hell Gate Line to accommodate Metro-North Railroad commuter rail service. Nearly $830 million will replace the 116-year-old Connecticut River Bridge between Old Saybrook and Old Lyme. Funding will additionally go towards studying opportunities to reduce travel time between Washington, D.C. and New York City, and Connecticut and Rhode Island.

A state social services office in Norwich, Connecticut was closed on Monday and Tuesday after receiving an undisclosed threat. Staff received the threat by phone Monday afternoon and contacted State Police. The threat is still under investigation. Residents in Norwich can still access day-to-day services online or by calling 855-626-6632

Suffolk County will pay $1.7 million to resolve a settlement with a Patchogue man who was shot by an off-duty cop in 2018. Steven Kelly was withdrawing cash at a 7-Eleven ATM on Waverly Avenue when officer Kevin Muller assaulted, tased and shot him. Muller said he thought Kelly was a robbery suspect. Kelly suffered a fractured rib, facial laceration and had to have his spleen removed at the Long Island Community Hospital. He sued the county, police department and Muller for monetary damages.

Derby, Connecticut will have a rough road ahead in resolving its financial crises. The city currently has no finance director or tax collector and is expected to lose $1.9 million from its fund balance, according to Hearst Connecticut Media. Once a mayor is elected, they will have to present a five-year plan to improve the city’s finances for review and approval by the state Municipal Finance Advisory Committee. The state may decide to increase its oversight of city finances.

Union workers with PSEG Long Island ratified a new four-year contract. Nearly 1,500 PSEG Long Island employees will receive a cumulative 15.5% wage increase by November 2027. The contract will also grant the company more control over costs and continue to offer market-competitive compensation and benefits packages.

Connecticut may soon ban the use of toxic PFAS chemicals. House Minority Leader Vincent Candelora and Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff hope to pass rules that would phase out PFAS permanently from products in 2024. This is amid several lawsuits filed against Connecticut Water Co. and Aquarion, claiming the companies knowingly poison residents with contaminated water. The lawsuits allege the companies refuse to take out these harmful compounds despite having access to water filtration technology. Both Aquarion and Connecticut Water said they comply with current water quality standards.

Two Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Council incumbents were reelected to a third three-year term on Sunday. Latoya Cluff was elected as vice chairwoman. Matthew Pearson was reelected as secretary. Cluff chairs the tribe’s Community Planning and Housing committees, and Pearson chairs its Administrative Support and Judicial committees. The Tribal Council governs the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation and oversees multiple tribally owned enterprises, including the Foxwoods Resort Casino and the Mashantucket Pequot Museum.

Eric Warner is a news fellow at WSHU.