When a rogue cyclist ripped the driver’s side mirror off his car, after calling police, Assemblyman Mike DenDekker (D-Jackson Heights) wrote legislation.
At a press conference on Friday, DenDekker announced the introduction of a bill which would make damaging the property of an elected official a crime of criminal mischief in the third degree. If the bill passes, a judge could conceivably sentence a vandal targeting an elected official to up to four years in prison.
Though it has not been proven, DenDekker believes his vehicle, which sports state Assembly plates, may have been deliberately attacked because he introduced legislation which would have required cyclists to be registered.
DenDekker did not witness the crime, but cameras mounted on his home showed the cyclist ride by and purposely break off the mirror in the early morning hours of May 31.
Police from the 115th Precinct are investigating the incident and DenDekker urged the vandal to come forward, saying he is concerned for his safety and that of his family.
“We realize that people are angry and frustrated,” DenDekker said, “But what makes anyone believe that things will get better by intimidating elected officials? If a landlord doesn’t like my views on rent regulation, does that give them the right to destroy my property in an effort to change my position? If a person doesn’t like my views on marriage equality in New York State, does that give the opposition the right to physically target me in the hopes that it would change my vote?”
DenDekker said he would not have introduced legislation if he were the only area elected official who had been vandalized.
Joining him at the press conference, Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras (D-East Elmhurst) said she had her tires slashed and her windshield wipers bent after declaring her support for state Sen. Jose Peralta (D-East Elmhurst) following the ouster of embattled former Sen. Hiram Monserrate.
Assemblyman Francisco Moya (D-Corona) reportedly had his car vandalized when he ran against Monserrate in the Assembly. DenDekker said Peralta also had his property damaged.
Though assaulting or attacking emergency medical technicians, MTA employees, NYPD officers, members of the FDNY or federal elected officials carries increased penalties, in New York, city and state elected officials currently have no special protections.
DenDekker mentioned Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Arizona) who was shot in the head earlier this year at a public event, adding that he doesn’t want anyone else to end up in a similar situation if things escalate.
“The First Amendment is the cornerstone of our democracy,” said state Sen. Jose Peralta (D-East Elmhurst) in a prepared statement. “It allows us to express our points of view free of the fear of incurring physical harm to ourselves, our families or our property from anyone who disagrees. The ability to freely debate public policy, express opinions and propose legislation is essential to the democratic process.”
Ferreras put it more bluntly: “This legislation will make individuals think twice before resorting to intimidating tactics. I had my personal property damaged and spent money on repairs. As an elected official, I give everyone the respect they deserve even when our politics differ. Causing property damage when people’s politics differ is not acceptable. It cannot and will not be tolerated.”