Even if Playground Wrongfully Locked, Politicians Should not Be Cutting Gates – Covid-19

Dear Reader:

Given the freedom of protesters to march in NYC, many without masks and without deference to Covid-19 and social distancing, we cannot really understand the decision to weld Brooklyn parks closed. Parents and children within those neighborhoods should be afforded a place to go out and children, a place to play.

Having said that, breaking into them and trespassing on the part of politicians is nothing short of illegal, should not be tolerated and those who had the audacity to cut the chains should be arrested and charged. This is no way to set an example from New York’s respected lawmakers. This is not a form of social peaceful disobedience, it is simply breaking the law.

Worse still, there are many more videos showing a veritable form of F-U to the decision-makers who welded those gates shut, something that also should not be tolerated.

At a time where this entire country is preciously long on lawlessness and defiance, it might be time for our Jewish lawmakers to be setting a good example. This is apparently not such a time.

We do not believe that the gates should have been closed. Instead, rules of social distancing and mask wearing should have been enforced. We recognize the paradigm: if it is not enforced at protests, why should it be enforced in parks? It should be enforced equally.

But, more to the point, perhaps the enforcement of social distancing should come to to someone stepping up and doing the right thing. Only one man in the picture is wearing a mask (beside the paid fence-cutter) which is also unacceptable.

This was a poor example of defiance and one that sets the stage for the entire neighborhood to break the law. It is sad, unfortunate, and those who cut the gate open should be prosecuted as lawbreakers.

Councilman Kalman Yeger, Assemblyman Simcha Eichenstein, Senator Simcha Felder and an unidentified worker cut the lock at a Brooklyn playground.
Councilman Kalman Yeger, Assemblyman Simcha Eichenstein, Senator Simcha Felder and an unidentified worker break the lock at a Brooklyn playground. NY Assembly

A group of Brooklyn politicians representing orthodox Jewish neighborhoods have defied Mayor Bill de Blasio’s coronavirus closure of playgrounds and staged a series of protests this week in which they broke the locks and attempted to open various playgrounds.

That group, which includes State Senator Simcha Felder, Assemblyman Simcha Eichenstein, and Councilman Kalman Yeger gathered at Dome Playground in Borough Park and Kolbert Playground in Midwood this morning to break the chains at both places. They were joined by radio host Heshy Tischler, who declared at Kolbert, “Welcome to our park everybody. Come on in. We’re going to open up every single park in the entire city, no matter if you’re Jewish or not.” (City parks have remained open during the coronavirus PAUSE, but playgrounds were closed.)

“The only way you’re getting these chains back Mr. Mayor, is if you’re coming to get me,” Tischler said after they opened up Dome Playground.

“The only way you’re getting these chains back Mr. Mayor, is if you’re coming to get me,” Tischler said after they opened up Dome Playground.
…….

Asked about the playground protests at a press conference Tuesday morning, de Blasio said, “We’re not going to allow people to take the law into their own hands, it just doesn’t work. So people are not allowed to open up a playground that is not yet available to the public. It’s for a reason.”

While the mayor said he was sympathetic to parents dealing with kids who have been cooped up for months because of the coronavirus pandemic, he said there would be no changes in policy with playgrounds until phase two begins. Phase two could start as early as next week (June 22nd), although he cautioned that he thought it would take longer than that.

One reporter pointed out that many children are already playing together out in the streets, so wouldn’t it be safer if they were able to do so in playgrounds? De Blasio stressed that kids should not be playing with other kids who aren’t in their households, and reiterated that the playgrounds would be figured out in phase two. “I’m hopeful we’ll be able to open things up, but we’re not there yet,” he said. “The minute you say okay, let’s open the playgrounds, then a lot of kids come in contact with a lot of other kids, and adults come in contact with other adults, then the disease starts spreading, and that’s what we don’t want, this is the thing that’ll take us backwards.”

Felder, Eichenstein and Yeger released a joint statement attacking the mayor for not opening playgrounds despite their pleas, and vowed to continue cutting locks as long as they had to.

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A Cluster F@#K, A Flyover, a Massive Crowded Funeral in Williamsburg, Mayor de Blasio and Covid-19 (Part II)

The funeral at Bedford Avenue and Rutledge Street on Tuesday night
The funeral at Bedford Avenue and Rutledge Street on Tuesday night PROVIDED TO GOTHAMIST

Did Mayor de Blasio First Coordinate and then Castigate a Funeral Procession (his Police Department Helped Organize)? If so, What Does that Say About the State of Affairs in New York

This is a follow-up to our last piece entitled:

A Flyover, a Massive Crowded Funeral in Williamsburg, Mayor de Blasio and Covid-19

The following is a commentary based upon new information that we have obtained through the day.

We were hopeful that finally Mayor Bill de Blasio had put his foot down to the violations of social mandates by a small but not insignificant community. The NYPD has repeatedly had to break up funeral gatherings and other social soirees in religious communities in New York. Each such event runs the risk of infecting thousands of New Yorkers (and New Jerseyites) with Covid-19; but, to the extent de Blasio could look the other way, de Blasio has done just that. Time and time again, he has avoided controversy while still juggling political expediency.

But, to help organize a massive funeral in a pandemic? Really?

De Blasio’s various campaigns have been well funded by members of the religious community (and their attorneys and media consultants), and not just the Jewish community. His public records of campaign finances are a veritable whose who of influential people and activists and those that represent him. Members of the funeral-hosting Haredi community have gotten special treatment when it comes to real estate deals. Nursing homes are largely unregulated, whether that has anything to do with de Blasio and his office or not is anyone’s guess in bedlam, oops, Gotham. And the Shomrim are largely funded by NYS taxpayer dollars in one form or another.

How many communities get their own assisted police and ambulance forces, sometimes better equipped than those that are by New York’s public system? We don’t know nor do we judge. We stand by our position, however, that the Shomrim’s days should be numbered in favor of a more unified police force in New York. But these are the ways of politics and de Blasio has the financial remains of a Presidential bid to account for, or not.

So, yesterday’s utter castigation of the attendees to a massive funeral procession felt oddly like de Blasio was finally standing up for all Jews and all residents of the City of New York (and New Jersey). There are too few degrees of separation in a City so packed with people. In a Borough that has nearly the largest number of sick to healthy people on the various Covid-Scales, to have a safe giant funeral is impossible. Mayor de Blasio’s march to the scene of the funeral to help disperse the crowd felt somewhat heroic (albeit admittedly naive).

The mere mortals of this world, Jewish or otherwise, have had to bury our dead largely alone or with the help of online media portals. A Rabbi’s funeral, despite broad accounts of its importance in Jewish observance, still cannot undo the mandates of Pikuach Nefesh as it applies to the lack of safety in numbers with Covid-19 so easily transmitted. But we suppose a belief in Pikuach Nefesh presupposes a belief in the underlying science. 

We accepted if not celebrated de Blasio’s response to the massive funeral procession as a measured response to frustration with a community that has violated the social distancing laws to the detriment of all New Yorkers. We thought that finally the camel’s back had broken. The religious community, small as it may be or not, that has thumbed its nose to social distancing (and the science behind it) has raised the ire of Jews and non Jews everywhere. So finally, de Blasio did it! He yelled! He Tweeted! He stood up and said, “Enough.” And in so doing he was unsurprisingly called an anti-Semite.

Of course, waiving that flag in the Covid-19 environment is a measured response (sarcasm intended).

But then the bubble burst. “Drach!” Gone. Mayor de Blasio’s office, we are told, helped to organize the very funeral procession he then needed to disperse and openly excoriate. What was that? He was not looking out for regular New Yorkers? Apparently not. He was doing damage control; and if that meant pinning blame on a large swath of New York, all Jews, then let the rip cord fly.

And, that is a disappointment. 

If Mayor de Blasio used a broad stroke to include all Jews in his criticism of the Haredi community that violated social distancing, out of frustration for an event  the Haredim held that places all New Yorkers at risk, so-be-it. If they did not like the heat, they should not have piled 2500 deep into the Williamsburg kitchen.

But if Mayor de Blasio first approved that gathering and then used the Jews as a scapegoat to put out what otherwise might have been a media firestorm, he is no better than the worst of the politicians there are out there. And if that last point is true, we in our previous criticism owe our apologies to the organizers of the event.

If Mayor de Blasio’s office approved the funeral, helped to keep it organized, and then misread the magnitude, the community that hosted the funeral with approvals cannot be held to account for the fallout.

That responsibility rests squarely on de Blasio’s shoulders.

If that latter point is true and if people get sick in two weeks from yesterday, any blood will, if he approved the event, be on de Blasio’s shoulders, not the shoulders of the organizers of the event.

Crowded Hasidic Funeral In Williamsburg Was Coordinated And Approved By NYPD

Mayor Bill de Blasio personally helped disperse a crowded Hasidic funeral in Williamsburg on Tuesday night, sending thousands of mourners scattering on Bedford Avenue before issuing a stern warning on Twitter to “the Jewish community, and all communities.”

“Something absolutely unacceptable happened in Williamsburg tonite [sic]: a large funeral gathering in the middle of this pandemic,” de Blasio wrote. “What I saw WILL NOT be tolerated so long as we are fighting the Coronavirus.”

Twelve summonses were issued to those violating social distancing restrictions, according to Police Commissioner Dermott Shea. There were no arrests. “We cannot have what we had last night,” Shea told reporters on Wednesday. “We will not tolerate it.”

But according to Hasidic community leaders, the police department actually approved and helped coordinate the procession, which was held for local rabbi Chaim Mertz. Hours before the intervention, the NYPD’s Community Affairs Unit erected barricades in the area and worked with Shomrim, an ultra-Orthodox neighborhood patrol group, to ensure the funeral could take place.

“We had an understanding with the police department that the Shomrim patrol would have 50 members and make sure everyone is wearing masks,” Rabbi Abe Friedman, a Williamsburg community leader, told Gothamist. “We can’t cancel a funeral of a very prominent rabbi, it’s not realistic.”

“It was supposed to be a very organized, safe, very short final goodbye,” he added. “Unfortunately, some people overacted and saw tons of people on the street and started dispersing the crowd and that caused a very big issue.”

Since the pandemic began, the NYPD has repeatedly broken up well-attended funeral gatherings in Brooklyn’s ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods, which have seen some of the highest rates of COVID-19 deaths. A police spokesperson would not say why the funeral was allowed to take place, or how the department decides to enforce social distancing laws.

To continue reading in the Gothamist, click here.

 

ADDITIONAL READING:

Jewish funeral in Williamsburg on 4/28/20.Photos: Peter Gerber
A crowd of people in Williamsburg at the funeral of a rabbi.

NYPD commissioner: Gatherings like Brooklyn funeral put cops’ ‘lives at risk’

NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea said Wednesday that large gatherings like an Orthodox funeral held in Brooklyn Tuesday night were endangering his police officers — as the mayor claimed he has a “long, deep relationship with the Orthodox Jewish community.”

Shea, who said a paltry 12 summonses were issued, also pushed back against criticism that other groups were holding similar gatherings.

“There was two funerals last weekend for members of the NYPD, we would normally have probably tens of thousands of people at that funeral, we had a handful,” Shea said of scaled-down police officer funerals.

“People have to be accountable for their own actions, regardless of what neighborhood, ethnicity, where they come from, we cannot have what we had last night. We will not tolerate it.”

To continue reading, click here.

NYPD was warned ‘big crowd’ would turn out for rabbi’s funeral

The NYPD was warned that the funeral of a prominent Brooklyn rabbi would draw a “big crowd” and sent dozens of cops with barricades and light towers — despite a ban on mass gatherings due to the coronavirus pandemic, The Post has learned.

But the situation in Williamsburg got out of hand when mourners surged toward the synagogue because a plan to relay the service over loudspeakers was unexpectedly canceled, a longtime liaison between the Hasidic Satmar community and the NYPD said Wednesday.

Moses Weiser said he “personally spoke” with NYPD Capt. Mark Vazquez before Tuesday’s funeral of Rabbi Chaim Mertz, who reportedly died of COVID-19.

“I asked him to use his resources however he wants to put this together, and he basically told us that we should follow his instructions,” Weiser said.

“We knew there was going to be a big crowd, especially now with no schools open, no yeshivas open — everyone wants to pay their respects to such a man.”

Weiser said Mertz’s synagogue, Tolas Yakov Bais Hamedrash, “originally wanted to have just family” outside “and we would set up speakers down the street a couple of blocks so that people could spread out and listen.”

“But an order came from somewhere to cancel the speakers, I’m not sure where the order came from, and so people started gathering close to see what was going on and to hear,” he said.

To continue reading, click here. 

Innovative, In Demand, Cobble Hill Health Center a Covid-19 Petri Dish, Resources and Oversight?

Emergency medical workers arrive at Cobble Hill Health Center, Friday, April 17, 2020, in the Brooklyn borough of New York.
Emergency medical workers arrive at Cobble Hill Health Center, Friday, April 17, 2020, in the Brooklyn borough of New York.
 John Minchillo—AP

‘Under Siege’: Brooklyn Nursing Home Reports 55 Deaths

(NEW YORK) — As residents at a nursing home in Kirkland, Washington, began dying in late February from a coronavirus outbreak that would eventually take 43 lives, there was little sign of trouble at the Cobble Hill Health Center, a 360-bed facility in an upscale section of Brooklyn.

Its Facebook page posted a cheerful story encouraging relatives to quiz their aging loved ones about their lives, and photos of smiling third graders at a nearby school making flower arrangements for residents.

That quickly changed. By the middle of March, the CEO began sending increasingly alarmed emails about banning visitors, screening staff, confining residents, wiping down all surfaces, and having all-hands-on-deck meetings to prepare everyone for the coming coronavirus “freight train.”

“I’ll be darned if I’m not going to do everything in my power to protect them,” Donny Tuchman wrote before things got worse. More than 100 staffers, nearly a third of the workforce, went out sick. Those left began wearing garbage bags because of a shortage of protective gear. Not a single resident has been able to get tested for the virus to this day.

Continue reading

Medical Sites Like ParCare Serving the Haredi Community Are in Short Supply of Tests – Covid-19

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Gershon Schlesinger

New York Orthodox Jewish Community Lacks Necessary Test Kits to Combat Coronavirus

Testing tents set up for the community quickly ran out of tests, only sporadically receiving more: ‘Everyone wants to get tested, but we just can’t’

Medical workers serving the Orthodox Jewish community in New York, which has become an epicenter for the spread of the coronavirus, are overworked and lack the necessary test kits to properly check members of the community.

“We are being [flooded] by hundreds of calls from people wanting to get tested, everyone wants to get tested, but we just can’t,” Gershon Schlesinger, CEO of the ParCare Medical Centers in Brooklyn, told Haaretz on Monday. “I wish we would get these kits thate the president has announced that he is going to get, millions of test kits, but that hasn’t materialized. So at the moment, we can only do what we can do,” he said, referring to U.S. President Donald Trump’s promise to provide large numbers of test kits to medical providers.

Since last Sunday, Schlesinger’s medical centers have set up three COVID-19 testing tents: One in Williamsburg, another on Bay Parkway near Borough Park and Bonsonhurst in Brooklyn, and a third center in the Orthodox Jewish village of Kyrias Joel, north of New York City. While most of the patients showing up to the testing tents are Orthodox Jews, the one on Bay Parkway has a more diverse attendance, Schlesinger said.

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For a Friday Afternoon: Is it Acceptable By Halacha to Close Public Roadways for Rabbinical Processions? [ Video, Yiddish]

Readers:

The following video is largely in Yiddish. Loosely translated it suggests that it is not acceptable under Halacha to close public roadways and thoroughfares (in this case the BQE) for the purpose of private processions by a rabbi. Here the reference is to the Satmar Rabbi that closed the BQE “with great excitement” as he was escorted to the airport for a mission to Israel, reported about several months ago. 

We do not know enough about the subject to opine in great detail.

We thought it was interesting that it is circulating WhatsApp chats as a point of discussion in regard to the “Daf Yomi”  (the page of the day), which is what we understand this to be.  

We will, of course, make additions, editions amendments if they are forthcoming and/or if we somehow have this wrong.

We welcome a complete translation.

Shabbat Shalom!

First All-Female Ambulance Corp (Ezras Nashim) Denied Permit in NY – Huh???

Ezras Nashim application hearing

FIRST THEY ARE INDOCTRINATED THEN DEBASED, THE DENIAL OF AN AMBULANCE PERMIT IN BROOKLYN

The following is a commentary – nothing more than the opinion of the blogger or bloggers, followed by the story:

It seems to us that this was a no-brainer, an all women ambulance corp designated to respond to the needs of women in the Hasidic community. Why not? Women are the caregivers. Women are the mothers. Women are the empathetic. Women are often better educated (within the Hasidic community). Why would someone even think to deny such a service? Money.

We believe there can be no other answer than the money and the control. We contend that those in charge of this decision should be ashamed. To those of you who voted against, or simply stayed home to avoid a quorum, the life of every woman who does not seek emergency care because she does not want to be touched by a man, is in your hands. Any death, yours to shoulder. 

The obvious gender bias is tough to palate. 

Hasidic women have been raised to believe that the touch of a man other than their husband and young sons is forbidden. In the Hasidic community, there are areas where men and women are segregated, even on streets.  A woman will not even shake the hand of a man, even as a gesture of courtesy in a business setting. Some find it insulting, but to these women it an engendered part of the sanctity of their belief in G-d. Distance between the sexes is required.

The most religious of women will not even take something directly from a man. “Please pass the salt” means that the salt gets placed down on the table by the man and picked up off the table by the woman so as to avoid any direct contact, even albeit vis a vis a salt shaker. In some cases, this is also true of the relationship between husband and wife during the time of “Nidah” or “ritual impurity.” A woman’s husband will not even take something directly from her hand. Some think this is extremism. In the religious community it is about piousness, virtue, the sanctity of a marriage and unintended sexual consequences of such interactions. 

We pass no judgement. 

We ask the following question to those ill-advised members of the committee who voted against the all-woman ambulance corp, and to those who decided to stay home, knowing the lack of quorum would fail the vote: When you indoctrinate a woman with a belief that the touch of a man is forbidden, how then is she to feel comfortable getting medical care provided by a man? How is any woman who has been raised within this belief system to feel comfortable if she is sick and needs medical assistance, even emergency medical assistance, when the person offering that assistance is a man?

Many women grapple with this decision. Others endure the touch and try not to feel somehow demeaned.

But, is this a fair demand of women within the religious society? What if the man who answers an emergency call is the Paramedic from next door who rides on the EMS truck for Hatzolah?

We have been told that many, many Hasidic women will avoid calling an ambulance, and will risk whatever medical danger they may be in because they fear the contact required to treat them will be the touch of a man.

As such being a Hasidic woman in a medical emergency can be tortuously uncomfortable. And these women deserve better from the society in which they are raised. They deserve better from the Rabbinate that petitioned against the bid for a permit for the all-female ambulance corp. These women bear your children. They are your future and the decision to deny Hasidic women a gender-appropriate ambulance is a travesty. It is an injustice.

The decision to deny the bid, in our view, has everything to do with money, control,  sharing of financial resources and the financial accountability of Hatzolah.

All-women Hasidic EMT group denied bid for ambulance in Brooklyn

The bid of an all-women Hasidic EMT crew to operate an ambulance in Brooklyn was denied Tuesday by a state-sanctioned board, in what the group is blasting as an act of bias.

Members of Ezras Nashim say the Regional Emergency Medical Services Council of New York City (REMSCO) is packed with sympathizers of Hatzolah, an Orthodox mens-only EMT group, that has forcefully opposed its female counterpart’s right to exist.

“It’s biased,” said Leah Levine, outreach and development director for the all-women group. “Once there’s a situation that there’s so many board members with Hatzolah, there’s really a very slight chance [for us to succeed].”

Ezras Nashim — Hebrew for “helping women” — sought to serve female clientele within a 2-square-mile area in the predominantly Orthodox Borough Park neighborhood. The women were previously turned away when they sought to join the men’s group.

On Tuesday night, REMSCO denied the group’s application with a 12-7 vote. There were five abstentions and two members were absent.

Ezras Nashim needed a 14-vote majority in order to get the OK to operate its own ambulance.

At least three of the men who voted against the women have ties to Hatzolah, The Post found.

“They should have recused themselves and they didn’t,” charged Ezras Nashim member Sarah Weisshaus, calling the vote “an injustice.”

“Because they are part of REMSCO they really had an advantage in terms of manipulating the situation.”

Scott Orlanski, a REMSCO board member who opposed the application, said Ezras Nashim didn’t meet certain requirements.

“This has nothing to do with Hatzolah,” Orlanski said at the meeting, referring to the Orthodox ambulance corps Hatzolah that operates in Brooklyn. “This has to do with Ezras Nashim and their proving need [to qualify for an ambulance].”

He added, “They may want to be met, there may be a desire to meet them, as has been indicated in the application submitted by Ezras Nashim, but we are not here to debate wishes, wants or desires … religion is not one of those [requirements] and I submit to my fellow members that should we tread into those dangerous, murky waters, we will be in a world of hurt.”

REMSCO board member Nancy Benedetto voted yes for the ambulance.

“What we are looking at this evening is that there is a lack of evidence that existing resources will be reallocated to fulfill the maintaining of modesty for observant Jewish women. That is a key piece here,” she said ahead of the vote.

REMSCO didn’t respond to requests for comment.

The women plan on appealing the decision in Albany.

Ezras Nashim, which launched in 2012, wants to serve Orthodox women who feel uncomfortable being cared for by male first responders.

To continue reading click here.

A Platinum Roller Coaster and the Lies We Tell Ourselves about Misdeeds

Platinum CIO Says No Evidence Of Misdeeds In ‘Bogus’ Case

Law360, New York (June 27, 2019, 10:11 PM EDT) — Former Platinum Partners co-chief investment officer David Levy’s attorney told a New York federal jury on Thursday in the securities fraud trial of the hedge fund manager’s top executives that prosecutors’ case is “bogus and flawed to the core,” citing a lack of evidence that Levy engaged in any wrongdoing.

Michael Sommer of Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati PC began his closing arguments in U.S. District Judge Brian Cogan’s Brooklyn courtroom, saying prosecutors have failed to show that Levy ever deceived or lied to investors in Platinum’s signature fund, Platinum Partners Value Arbitrage Fund.

“The evidence related to David in this trial was almost nonexistent,” Sommer told the jury. “Many of the witnesses said they didn’t even know David.”

Prosecutors say Levy, Platinum co-founder Mark Nordlicht and former chief financial officer Joseph SanFilippo defrauded PPVA investors by lying about a liquidity crisis at the failing fund that left it unable to meet a flood of redemption requests. The executives also allegedly deceived investors about Platinum’s practice of making preferential payments to certain investors and high interest interfund loans that were being used to keep PPVA afloat.

Nordlicht and Levy are further charged with defrauding bondholders in oil and gas Platinum portfolio company Black Elk Offshore Operations LLC.

 

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