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Lancman protection law aims to help nonprofits

State Assemblyman Rory Lancman (D-Fresh Meadows) and state Sen. Toby Stavisky (D-Whitestone) cheered Gov. David Paterson’s decision last week to sign legislation they sponsored to protect nonprofits from terrorism.

The Non-Profit Homeland Security Preparedness Study Act commissions the state Office of Homeland Security to study and report on the security needs of nonprofit institutions to determine how state officials can best help them prepare for potential terrorist attacks.

“New York state is home to hundreds, if not thousands, of nonprofit cultural, religious and educational institutions which are terrorist targets, but many institutions lack the resources and expertise to adequately protect themselves and those they serve,” Lancman said.

Lancman said this legislation is especially needed in the wake of the arrest of four men who had plotted in May to blow up two synagogues in the Bronx.

“We cannot afford to grow complacent,” Stavisky said. “The Non-Profit Homeland Security Preparedness Study Act will be an important step by New York State to protect its nonprofits, which perform important charitable functions and harbor our collective cultural heritage.”

The study act goes into effect immediately and the OHS’s security analysis will be due by March 31, 2010.

The legislation was backed by a wide variety of nonprofits, including the Queens Botanical Garden, the Queens Council on the Arts, the Queens Museum of Art, the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York, the UJA-Federation and the New York Hall of Science.

Tom Finkelpearl, executive director at the Queens Museum of Art, called the legislation “an important step in recognizing the crucial role that nonprofits of all types play in cementing the unique sense of internationalism that exists in our borough, our city and our country.”

The law will “ensure that the need for safe and secure centers for public discourse and cultural appreciation will not be overlooked,” Finkelpearl said.

Reynold Levy, president of the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, also praised Lancman and Stavisky for pushing through the new law.

“Lincoln Center faces a specific challenge to maintain an open campus while ensuring that visitors, students, patrons and public spaces remain safe and secure,” Levy said. “We recognize that the challenge of providing security is felt by other nonprofits in New York state and are thankful for the passage of the Non-Profit Homeland Security Preparedness Study Act.”

Reach reporter Anna Gustafson by e-mail at agustafson@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 174.

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