An Aquebogue man carrying "a large hunting knife" and a Nazi armband was one of two men arrested at Penn Station in connection with a threat to the city’s Jewish community, the NYPD said.
Christopher Brown, 21, was arrested at 11:30 p.m. Friday as he entered the station. He was charged with making a terroristic threat, aggravated harassment and criminal possession of a weapon. A second man, Matthew Mahrer, 22, of Manhattan, also was charged with criminal possession of a weapon in connection with the incident.
An NYPD spokesperson said police recovered the knife and an armband featuring a swastika from Brown at the time of his arrest. An illegal Glock 17 firearm and 30-round magazine were recovered from Mahrer's apartment at 100 W. 94th St., the spokesperson said.
The FBI/NYPD Joint Terrorism Task Force and NYPD counterterrorism and intelligence investigators gathered information to neutralize "a developing threat to the Jewish community" Friday before MTA police officers identified the suspects entering Penn Station, NYPD Commissioner Keechant Sewell said in a statement.
Police declined to release more specific information about the alleged threat.
“I join all New Yorkers today in expressing my gratitude and pride for the ever-vigilant work of our NYPD women and men — who remain on guard around the clock and every day to protect the peace and ensure no violence can ever come to the city and its people,” Sewell said in her statement.
Scott Richman, regional director for the Anti-Defamation League in New York and New Jersey, said his organization worked with law enforcement Friday as officers investigated the threats made by Brown. Richman said the ADL also examined Brown's activity on social media and found he posted on Twitter more than 300 times in the week leading to his arrest. Those posts included many instances of antisemitism and threats, posts about mental illness and misogynistic tweets, Richman said.
The number of hate crimes against Jewish residents and organizations in New York City has risen dramatically this year, according to an online database maintained by the NYPD. Through Sept. 30 there were 195 confirmed incidents of anti-Jewish bias, up from 142 during the same time period last year. Arrests stemming from those incidents has increased from 158 in the first nine months of 2021 to 208 this year.
"Nowhere [in America] are there more antisemitic incidents than in New York State," Richman said. "And nowhere in New York State, are there more antisemitic incidents than in New York City and the surrounding suburbs."
Rabbi Rick Jacobs, a resident of New York City and the president of the Union for Reform Judaism, said synagogues in the region have been working with the ADL to make sure they are prepared in case of an attack and equipped to keep congregants safe.
"We're living through an epidemic, it seems of antisemitism, and real threats," Jacobs said. "Some [threats] are rhetorical, people speaking harshly about Jews in media, and then we see, more actual physical threats, as we see in this case."
Gary Glick, 73, of Bellmore, an advocate for Jewish war veterans, said the incidents of hate against Jewish people can be felt on Long Island as well.
"Antisemitism is happening more and more," he said. "Each day I still put on my Jewish war veteran hat. I will not go into hiding as was done in the past."
Police in both Suffolk County and Riverhead, where Brown lives, said they have been made aware of no current threats to any houses of worship in their jurisdictions.
"The Suffolk County Police Department is aware of the threat involving the Jewish community that was uncovered and alleviated by NYPD," Suffolk police said in a statement. "While we continue to communicate with our law enforcement partners, there is currently no credible threat in Suffolk County. Our officers remain vigilant and will monitor vulnerable entities. Residents are reminded to call 911 for suspicious activity."
Nassau police are also on alert for any religious hate crimes, officials said.
“The Nassau County Police Department continues to work with our Federal, State and Local law enforcement agencies to exchange valuable intelligence to keep our residents safe," Commissioner Patrick Ryder said in a statement. "Our Officers continue to intensify their patrols around all houses of worship and request that police be called immediately if anyone sees of hears anything suspicious.”
Friday's arrests come a little more than a week after the Nov. 10 arrest of an 18-year-old New Jersey man, who the FBI office in Newark said in a statement posed “a broad security risk” to synagogues in that state. On Nov. 4, New York City Mayor Eric Adams said because of the FBI warning in New Jersey, the NYPD was designating more police resources to protect Jewish houses of worship.