ALBANY — Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed legislation Monday that stiffens penalties against those who make bomb threats against community centers.
Offenders can now be charged with a public order offense, which could result in at least a year of jail time. The bill, passed by the state Legislature in June, comes a few months after a number of state Jewish Community Centers received bomb threats.
Previously, the public order offense law applied to incidents that took place on highways, transportation facilities, schools, parks and other public places. The legislation expands the list to include community centers.
Earlier this year, Jewish Community Centers across the country received threatening calls that prompted evacuations and changes in security measures. Locally, the Albany JCC received multiple bomb threats; the Schenectady JCC was not targeted. Each of the calls proved to be a hoax.
“I think anytime that the governor or anyone in a similar position puts more tools in the hands of law enforcement to do their job properly, it’s a good thing,” said Adam Chaskin, executive director of the Albany JCC.
“The chaos that is caused by a false bomb threat is tremendous,” said Rabbi Matthew Cutler of Congregation Gates of Heaven in Schenectady, who praised the legislation. “It actually is terrorism even though there is no explosion.”
The governor’s announcement comes days after a “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville turned violent. Three people died and dozens were injured after white nationalist groups and counterprotesters clashed Saturday.
“The horrific events in Charlottesville this weekend demonstrate that now, more than ever, we must stand united against bias and hate in all of its forms, and this new law is one more step toward a more just and more equal New York for all,” Cuomo said in a prepared statement.