swift hire

Bill de Blasio appoints head of new office on hate crimes

Chairman of city council’s Jewish Caucus says he’s ‘cautiously optimistic’ about the hire of Deborah Lauter

Richard Drew/AP

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio speaks at City Hall, Monday, Aug. 19, 2019.

On Tuesday, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced the appointment of Deborah Lauter as executive director of the newly created Office for the Prevention of Hate Crimes. 

Lauter previously served as the national civil rights director at the Anti-Defamation League. In her new position, she will supervise a team of six employees and oversee a budget of $1.7 million in the 2020 fiscal year, according to Colby Hamilton, a spokesman for the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice. 

The opening of the new office follows a renewed push by New York City Councilmembers Chaim Deutsch (D-Brooklyn), Mark Levine (D-Manhattan) and Donovan Richards (D-Queens), who urged the mayor to take immediate action on antisemitism after a rash of recent incidents across New York City. 

Earlier this year, a bill requiring educational outreach on the municipal level was passed by the City Council, and was slated to be implemented towards the end of the year. But in June, de Blasio declared the immediate opening of the office to combat the dramatic rise in antisemitic violence. 

On Tuesday, three months after his initial announcement, the mayor made good on that promise. 

“I’m cautiously optimistic about the mayor’s decision to hire Deborah Lauter as executive director,” Deutsch, chairman of the city council’s Jewish Caucus, told Jewish Insider. “She comes highly recommended, and I look forward to working together with her.” 

Levine, who held the chairmanship until last year, lauded the pick as “an excellent choice,” saying Lauter “brings the right experience to this job.”

According to City Hall, Lauter has been on the job for a week now, but has yet to meet with de Blasio, who was reportedly in City Hall at the time of the announcement. “I don’t know the mayor’s schedule but I can assure you that everything that’s been communicated to me [indicates] the mayor is taking this extremely seriously,” Lauter told reporters. 

Deutsch told ABC7 that it was “kind of disturbing” that the mayor had not yet met with his new appointee: “Does that kind of beg the question — is the mayor serious about this office or not?” The councilman said de Blasio has been “a little pre-occupied.” The mayor has spent much of the summer outside New York City following his May entrance into the 2020 Democratic presidential primary.

In an interview with Jewish Insider, Levine said: “Now that we have a strong director, we need this office fully staffed, adequately resourced and with the broadest possible mandate as soon as possible.”

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