Following a spate of high-profile hate crimes during the pandemic, City Hall announced it would dole out $1 million to groups that could help spread love — but since then has divulged nothing about where the money went or who received it.
In 2021, the Office for the Prevention of Hate Crimes (OPHC), a division of the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice, announced it would give out $1 million to more than a dozen community groups to counter a surge in ethnicity-based attacks and vandalism.
The office announced what it called “Innovation Grants” — available to groups or individual residents over the age of 14 — to “incentivize creative and innovative solutions to combat hate crimes,” as described in an report from the agency in August of that year.
Months after what the office’s website says was a June 30, 2022, deadline to complete the projects, the hate crimes office has not revealed who received the grants or how much money was distributed. THE CITY has made repeated requests since summertime to identify the organizations that received funds and the projects funded, and received no response.
THE CITY also reached out to organizations that the OPHC listed as judges for the Innovation Grants — including the 67th Precinct Clergy Council, the Arab American Association of New York and the New York City Anti-Violence Project — for any details. None of them responded.
A spokesperson for the Hispanic Federation, another group listed as a judge on the OPHC website, told THE CITY the group was not a judge, but in fact received funds from the office. Along with some of the other groups listed as Innovation Grant judges, it is one of six groups the office announced last year is participating in its $3 million P.A.T.H. FORWARD, which stands for “Partners Against the Hate.”
The small office saw its founding director, Deborah Lauter, depart in March, not long after the office tweeted it was seeking Innovation Grant applicants. Mayor Eric Adams appointed a new director, Hassan Naveed, last month.
As interim director, Naveed told THE CITY in July that the office gave grants of up to $20,000 each to 18 groups in 2022, but did not name any.
Between when the COVID pandemic first gripped the city in March of 2020 and July of 2022, the NYPD has received 1,183 reports of incidents it deems hate crimes.
According to Frank Pezzella, an associate professor of criminal justice at John Jay College, even though the number of hate crimes being reported nationally has risen steadily since 2016, the official numbers may still understate incidents.
“Hate crimes might be the most underreported types of offenses that we have in this country. And that’s surprising during what appears to be a major spike in hate crimes across the country,” Pezzella told THE CITY.
The majority of hate crime arrests statewide in 2020 were for aggravated harassment charges, according to a state report from September 2021. The largest portion of reported hate crimes overall, 44%, had to do with “anti-race/ethnicity/national origin” biases. The most frequently reported bias motivations for hate crimes against individuals were anti-Black (26.0%), anti-Jewish (21.5%), anti-gay male (11.2%), and anti-Asian (10.3%).
Pezzella said programs such as Innovation Grants are crucial to ensuring hate crimes are not going unreported in New York City, adding that New York’s rising numbers could be a sign that more victims are now coming forward.
“What we don’t have is a really good evaluation of the programming,” he said. “But the fact that we have these increases in hate crimes since 2020, 2021 into 2022 may be indicative that these programs are actually being effective. We’ll especially know if they stop doing these things, and we see a drop.”