A group of Orthodox Jewish sexual abuse victims is calling out to Albany.
Eight men demonstrated in front of Assemblymember Vito J. Lopez’s Williamsburg district office this past Wednesday, protesting a bill Lopez is sponsoring that could derail legislation they favor that would temporarily eliminate the statute of limitations on when a victim can file a civil suit against an abuser.
“We’re here to support the Markey bill and show our opposition to the assemblyman,” said Mark Meyer Appel, a community activist and an attorney who works with Orthodox victims’ groups. “Why doesn’t the assemblyman come out and debate me? He’s hiding in Albany.”
Legislators have been scrambling this week to introduce two statute of limitations bills to the floor of the Assembly that would extend the amount of time that victims can seek criminal and civil penalties from their abusers.
Queens Assemblymember Marge Markey’s bill is favored by Catholic and Orthodox Jewish victims’ groups, as well as some civil rights groups and trial attorneys, as it includes a one−year window for victims to file civil suits against abusers well after the period the statute of limitations expired.
Lopez’s bill, favored by the Catholic Church and several legal defense organizations, does not include this window but still extends the statute of limitations beyond its current limits.
Lopez could not be reached for comment, but one source said he has been growing frustrated with the opposition in Williamsburg.
Both bills previously passed the Assembly Codes Committee, but are currently in line to be considered by the Assembly this week.
Debate on the Markey bill was supposed to begin on June 16, but the bill has not yet been introduced.
According to several sources, Speaker Sheldon Silver is reluctant to introduce the bill this week because Markey may not have enough of a majority of Democratic members for the bill to pass the Assembly. Lopez has also threatened to introduce a hostile amendment, which has the support of many Republican members, in a procedural move that would bring his bill to the floor for a vote as a replacement for Markey’s bill.
“We have well over a majority,” said Mike Armstrong, a spokesperson for Markey.
Armstrong indicated that they would attempt to introduce the bill on Friday, June 19, or possibly Monday, June 22, though he did not rule out reintroducing the bill when the Assembly convenes in January, as the instability in the Senate chamber would likely be resolved by that point.
Joel Engelman, a Williamsburg resident and abuse victim, is taking this one step at a time.