The Department of Homeland Security has announced that it will dole out more than $6 million in New York State to improve security at potential civilian terrorist targets, an increase of 40 percent over last year.
About 94 percent of the money will go to Jewish institutions here, around the same percentage of the national total of $19 million, said David Pollock, associate executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York, who helped local Jewish agencies submit the grant applications.
More organizations applied for the grants for security improvements because the government, for the first time in the five-year history of the Urban Area Security Initiative Non-profit Grant Program did not require organizations to match the funding at 25 percent from private sources. The grants are for up to $75,000, although some asked for less.
“In recognition that the economy is so bad, they decided not to require the matching,” said Pollock. In all, 303 applications were received in New York, 83 of which were approved, up from 68 last year.
Names of the institutions were not disclosed because many of the applicants will not be able to make the security enhancements for several months. But according to Rep. Anthony Weiner, a Queens Democrat who announced the funding last week, 25 grantees are synagogues, 36 are schools, 12 are community centers and one is a church.
A number of institutions that received previous grants were given a second grant this year, Pollock said.
With 32 grants totaling $2.3 million, Brooklyn has the largest number, while the next biggest chunk, $700,000, goes to nine facilities in Queens, followed by $600,000 for eight organizations in Manhattan and $600,000 for eight organizations in the Bronx. In Staten Island, $375,000 was awarded to five organizations. Grants were also awarded in Nassau, Suffolk and Westchester Counties as well as Albany, Buffalo and Syracuse.
“Over the years, these grants have proved to be vital resources in protecting our religious and cultural institutions,” Weiner said at a press conference with Manhattan Rep. Carolyn Maloney at the Ramaz School on the Upper East Side. “Worshipers, museum goers, and hospital visitors expect and deserve a safe environment, and this funding will go a long way towards ensuring their security.”
In other news, police last week charged a Brooklyn livery cab driver with distributing leaflets scrawled with “Kill the Jews” on at least two dozen occasions since April 2009.
Dimitrious Apolonides, 37, who is employed by XYZ Luxury Sedan Service in Brooklyn faces charges of aggravated harassment as a hate crime. The hate crimes charge stems only from an incident where fliers were left outside the Manhattan offices of the Jewish Guild for the Blind, suggesting the institutions was targeted because of religious affiliation, the Wall Street Journal reported. The other incidents seem not to be illegal.
The paper said Apolonides confessed to the crime and that the management of the car service cooperated with the investigation, which involved cross-checking dispatch logs and GPS data with the dates and locations of the incidents.
“While the motive for this anti-Semitic leafleting remains unclear, there can be no doubt that this was a crime motivated by hate and that the intent here was to spread fear through the New York City metropolitan area,” said Jeffery M. Parker and Ron Meier of the Anti-Defamation League in a statement.