The Chan family, of Roslyn, Derek (from left), Karen, Connor, 9, and...

The Chan family, of Roslyn, Derek (from left), Karen, Connor, 9, and Braden, 7, attended a Stop Asian Hate rally on April 25 at Grace Avenue Park in Great Neck. Credit: Morgan Campbell

Local officials are responding to a surge of anti-Asian violence by introducing a proposed law in the Nassau County Legislature to prohibit COVID-19-related discrimination and creating a committee in North Hempstead Town to counter the rise of hate crimes that have triggered widespread fear.

Under the proposal, "If someone is directing a comment or anger at another person or group based on a perceived connection to COVID-19, that’s considered a violation of the Human Rights Law as a defined discrimination practice," said Legis. Arnold Drucker (D-Plainview), who introduced the measure this month.

The legislation would allow victims to file civil lawsuits and seek punitive and compensatory damages. In addition, civil penalties could range from $5,000 to $25,000.

"The Nassau County attorney can file a lawsuit on behalf of Nassau County for violating its laws," Drucker said.

Just last week, the U.S. Senate passed the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act to create a position at the federal Department of Justice to expedite review of hate crimes and expand ways to report them. The House is expected to take up the bill in May.

David Rong, a Chinese American and former Bronx prosecutor, said the proposed Nassau bill is a move in the right direction but isn’t enough.

"They can fine people and [allow] civil lawsuits where if someone hurts you, you can sue them for money," said Rong, of East Meadow. "It needs to be paired with more funding for a hate crimes unit in the police department, more funding for prosecutors to focus on hate crimes and crime victim advocates who can speak Asian languages."

Chris Boyle, a spokesman for the legislature’s Republican majority, said in a statement that they are reviewing the legislation and "will continue to take action within its power against hate, violence, harassment and discrimination wherever it exists."

In North Hempstead, town officials have announced plans to form an Asian American Advisory Committee to explore ways to prevent violence and raise awareness. The Huntington Town Board voted April 13 to establish an Asian American Task Force there.

In recent weeks, several rallies condemning anti-Asian hate were held in North Hempstead, where the Asian population is nearly 20%.

Supervisor Judi Bosworth said the town put together a virtual meeting last month with community members to discuss ways to respond to the surge of hate crimes around the nation.

What came from that meeting was to expand the "Not in Our Town" nationwide anti-hate initiative that North Hempstead Town officials joined in 2017, including making new signs that say "STOP HATE. TOGETHER." in English, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Thai, Hindi and Arabic.

Last week, crews erected about a dozen large signs across the town, and Bosworth said she received an email last Thursday from a resident asking to get a smaller-sized sign for his lawn.

"It just shows a community coming together and how one act can motivate another act," Bosworth said Monday in a phone interview.

The committee membership has not been finalized, but Bosworth said the members will be appointed by the town board at a future meeting.

WHAT'S IN THE PROPOSAL:

  • The proposed law would amend Nassau County’s Human Rights Law to prohibit discrimination against someone “based on an actual or perceived relationship to the spread of COVID-19.”
  • The victim and the Nassau County attorney could file civil lawsuits.
  • In addition to damages, civil penalties could range from $5,000 to $25,000.

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