Lt. Governor Kathy Hochul visited the Jewish Community Center on Delaware Avenue in Buffalo Thursday as a sign of solidarity. WBFO's senior reporter Eileen Buckley says the JCC and others across the state have been targeted by recent bomb threats and anti-Semitism.
Lt. Governor Kathy Hochul said appeared at Buffalo's JCC as a sign of “solidarity”.
“We’re going to get to the bottom of it and that’s what people should know. Before you undertake something like this, not only is it bigotry, not only is it hatred, but it is also illegal and we will get to the bottom of the threats and make sure they end,” stated Hochul.
Governor Cuomo has pledged $25-million in funding for centers like Buffalo's to help with any upgrade of the facilities to make them safer. Richard Zakalik is executive director of the JCC of Greater Buffalo.
“We are a very secure facility. We take it very seriously. We are proactive, we are constantly training. We have security systems in place and observation systems and other things,” declared Zakalik.
180-children attend the JCC on Delaware Avenue. Hochul first appeared to read a Dr. Seuss book to them as part of Read Across America, then used the visit to reassure individuals and families the facilities will remain safe.
“When there are threats, there are very strong protocols, which were engaged in and undertaken recently when the threats occurred and business as usual here, so I feel very comfortable here, as parents should be and we want to get that message out as well,” Hochul remarked.
“State Police have been tremendously helpful. They’ve been forthcoming, they’ve been proactive with us. The FBI has been great with us. The local police – Buffalo Police, the town of Amherst Police,” noted Zakalik.
Strict protocols are followed at the center when threats are made to the center.
“Yesterday when I was addressing some early childhood parents, I reminded them my first experience with bomb threats was ‘duck and cover’ – we were going to protect ourselves from nuclear bombs and then in high school, in the early 70’s, we had bomb threats and we had to keep locker doors open and we’ve had other experiences with it, after 9/11 we had heightened security and other times we’ve had heightened security,” said Zakalik. “Business is very normal. We are carrying on like we always do. Over the last couple of months we’ve had more than 150 new people join the JCC. It hasn’t hinder the number of people who are comfortable and joining us,”
In condemning the threats, the Governor has ordered State Police to engage in hate crime investigations.