Thursday, July 22, 2010

Religious Groups, Non-Profits to Receive Security Grants

By Tamara Best

Eighty non-profit and religious groups in the city considered to be high-risk potential targets will receive more than $5.8 million in security grants from the Department of Homeland Security.

"Over the years, these grants have proved to be vital resources in protecting our religious and cultural institutions," said Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-Forest Hills) who is a member of the Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security. "Worshipers, museum goers, and hospital visitors expect and deserve a safe environment, and this funding will go a long way towards ensuring their security."

The grants are being made available through the Urban Area Security Initiative (UASI) Nonprofit Security Grant Program, with the city receiving a 40 percent increase from last year. In Queens, nine Jewish institutions received nearly $700,000 this year. Since the program began in 2005, approximately 300 New York City area non-profits have received nearly $23 million in funding.

Local politicians and community leaders said that the funding provides much needed re- sources to help keep their communities safe. "The terrorist threat against schools, places of worship, and other 'soft targets' is very real and we have an obligation to protect them," said Rep Jerrold Nadler (D-Manhattan). "Last year’s attempted bombing of two synagogues in the Bronx is a clear example that we must do more to protect high risk institutions.”

Assemblyman Rory Lancman (D-Hillcrest) said that the funding is particularly helpful to the Jewish community.

"For Jewish institutions in my district and throughout the country, the terrorist threat is real, ever-present and an enormous financial burden in these difficult times," he said adding that the funds will help make synagogues, yeshivas and community centers more secure.

Associate Rabbi Elie Weinstock of the Congregation Kehilath Jeshurun in Manhattan said the funding is important for maintaining security. "The Kehilath Jeshurun/Ramaz community is grateful for all of Congressman Weiner's efforts in helping keep our children and families—together with all New Yorkers—safe."

New York City will receive approximately 31 percent of the national funding, with the state receiving a little more than $6 million.

Organizations that qualified for the current grant program were eligible to receive up to $75,000 funds that can be used to train security personnel and install security measures such as surveillance cameras, barriers and controlled entry systems. On average, grant winners are awarded $73,000 and the funds should be received within the next three months.

The UASI program was created after Weiner pushed legislation in the Judiciary Committee in 2004. The Department of Homeland Security does not release the specific list of grant recipients due to security reasons.

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