Assemblyman Simcha Eichenstein Achieves Major Victory for Summer Camp Security

It is unprecedented for a freshman Assembly Member to have a major impact on the New York State budget, but this week Assemblyman Simcha Eichenstein succeeded in expanding the NYS Securing Communities Against Hate Crimes Grants Program to include summer sleep-away camps, which will improve the safety and security of thousands of children.

This grant program, which was introduced in 2017 with $25 million in funding, will be increased in fiscal year 2020 with an additional $25 million in capital funding. This program was designed to boost security at New York’s nonpublic schools, day care centers, and cultural museums at heightened risk. But Eichenstein saw a glaring omission which he was determined to fix.

At the beginning of the budget season, Assemblyman Eichenstein wrote a letter to Assembly Speaker Carl E. Heastie urging the Assembly to add summer sleep-away camps to the grant program. Eichenstein was able to garner the support of twenty-five of his colleagues who signed onto the letter he spearheaded to the Assembly Speaker sharing his concerns for the safety of our children during the summer.

As a result, the Assembly included Eichenstein’s proposal to expand the grant program to include summer sleepaway camps. These camps, most of which are located in upstate New York, are often unprepared for possible safety emergencies, especially given the recent rise in anti-Semitism and hate crimes throughout our state and nation.

This issue was a top priority for Assemblyman Eichenstein and he devoted a tremendous amount of effort to making it happen. After weeks of intense negotiations, Assemblyman Eichenstein prevailed in including his proposal in the final agreed-upon budget that passed both houses and is expected to be signed by the Governor this week.

Moving forward this program will include summer camps seeking funding to update their premises with surveillance cameras, perimeter lighting, alarm systems, fencing, security doors, and other crucial safety measures.

“I’d like to thank Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and my Assembly majority colleagues for recognizing the significance of this issue as well as the Governor for his ongoing efforts to ensure the safety of all New Yorkers,” said Assemblyman Simcha Eichenstein.

Assemblyman Eichenstein continued, “This is why I ran for office. My top priority is to serve my constituents and make a real difference in their lives and the lives of their families.”

“Keeping our children safe is among our highest priorities,” said Assembly Speaker Carl E. Heastie. “As the rate of hate crimes grows nationwide, it is important, now more than ever, to ensure our children can attend school, day care and cultural museums without fear of discrimination. By adding sleep-away summer camps to this list we can provide safety and security to our communities not just during the school year but year round.”

"Our schools and other community cultural facilities have had the opportunity, as potential targets of hate, to apply for Securing Communities Against Hate Crimes Grant, which allows crucial upgrades to security infrastructure; improving protection for thousands of students from baseless acts of hatred and violence. These acts have been on the rise in recent years and somehow, until now, these students and the camps they attend during the summer months, equally if not more so vulnerable, have not been candidates for this vital funding. I commend Assemblymember Eichenstein on his commitment to inclusion of our summer camps for Hate Crimes Grants in this year's budget." Said Assembly Ways and Means Chair Helene Weinstein

“Working closely with Assemblyman Eichenstein on this initiative was a great experience for me,” said Rabbi Joel Rosenfeld, Executive director of Camp Gila D’Bobov, who brought this issue to Eichenstein's attention as soon as he took office in January. “I saw firsthand that Boro Park made a great choice by electing an Assembly Member who does not stop and does not falter. I want to thank Assembly Member Eichenstein for working tirelessly on this issue.”

“There is nothing more precious to us than our children,” said Rabbi David Zwiebel, Executive Vice President of Agudath Israel of America. “We are deeply grateful to our government leaders in Albany, and particularly Assemblyman Simcha Eichenstein who spearheaded the initiative to add summer camps to the list of entities eligible for state security grants.”

“This is a historic accomplishment,” said Maury Litwack, Executive Director of Teach NYS, a project of the Orthodox Union. “This is the first time in the nation’s history that residential camps have been included in security grant legislation. Thank you to Assemblyman Eichenstein for his leadership and to Governor Cuomo for the creation and expansion of this proven safety program.”

“I am delighted by this great achievement to provide additional security funding for sleep-away camps,” said Rabbi Simcha Scholar, Chief Executive Officer of Chai Lifeline. “Our children’s safety and security is our top priority throughout the year, and there’s no reason that should change once the school year ends.”

“Security experts have told us how crucial this is to the camping community, we are tremendously grateful to the Assemblyman and we praise him for taking care of our children’s well-being,” said Shimon Newmark, Director of AJCO, American Jewish Camping Association.

Assemblyman Eichenstein is gratified that community leaders recognize the significance of this new development. Ultimately, he says, “it’s all about the children. They deserve to feel safe and secure no matter where they are. Adding the summer camps to the Hate Crimes Grants program will provide an extra level of protection for our children and peace of mind for their parents.”