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.
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.
Local leaders in Midwood use a grinder to open the chain and lock in Kolbert Playground, defying the city’s rule that playgrounds must remain closed due to coronavirus. They say kids need somewhere to play as we head in to summer. @NY1pic.twitter.com/w3I6geJKEk
“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.
The Three Accounts of the 2500 Guest Funeral in Williamsburg and The Power-Holders in New York
OPINION – LostMessiah 4.30.20
[updated 5.1.20 5:32 pm, an earlier version claimed the Williamsburg funeral took place on April 27, 2020]
There are conflicting stories about the massive funeral that was held in Williamsburg April 28, 2020, in the middle of the Covid-19 Pandemic. In one version of events, unbeknownst to the Mayor’s office a Haredi group held a massive funeral, failed to social distance, attended by thousands and utterly lawless. Upon hearing of it, Mayor de Blasio lost his mind with anger and came to the rescue. He scattered the people, broke up the funeral and then, in a scathing set of Twitter posts, admonished the group that held the funeral, while also, albeit inadvertently, painting all Jews as the villains. We were able to accept that last point because, well… the whole soiree was a major mess that put thousands of people at risk of catching Covid-19.
The second version of events is a bit different. In this portrait of NY, Mayor de Blasio had pre-approved the funeral. He had even sent New York Police Department members to the site to hand out masks, keep order and prevent the event from moving out of designated areas. How is that possible, you ask? We will get this that. In this version, almost more believable (and infuriating) than the first, Mayor de Blasio is complicit in putting people at risk and exposing thousands of New Yorkers to Covid-19. In this scenario, de Blasio, realized that this funeral was no small affair (as he was allegedly promised), but comprised of thousands of Haredim (who were not only locals but who had been bused in). The mourners were not social-distancing, but rather were standing largely unmasked and shoulder-to-shoulder to mourn this Blessed Rabbi. So, Mayor de Blasio angrily raced to the scene of lawlessness and assisted in dispersing the people, whom he had approved to be there.
In contrast to our unlikely hero in the first version of events, in the second one, de Blasio’s angry Tweets are not that of a frustrated mayor responding to a lawless community, but rather a willing accomplice who made a choice to scapegoat anyone and everyone to save his own skin. In Prisoner’s Dilemma terms, this second scenario characterizes Mayor de Blasio as the prisoner who turns against the other two, a woefully inadequate response when thousands of New Yorkers’ lives are now in newly constructed Covid-19 jeopardy.
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.
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.”
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.”
“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.”
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.
(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.
The WhatsApp text containing this video stated that this occurred in Crown Heights at the corner of Crown Street and Brooklyn Avenue. The NYPD and Shomrim were alleged to have been called to the scene. We cannot tell from the video of this was a mass funeral or simply a close family escort.
This type of tragedy should be unthinkable for everyone involved. We are all victims of a terrible illness, the mismanagement of the entire situation by political leaders and the faithless continuity of large congregations by both influential church leaders and rabbis.
But, when citizen starts attacking citizen, there is a reflection of a whole different level of outrage and hostility.
We should all be outraged. Not at one another but at the political and religious leaders who are quick to blame and slow to accept accountability.
WASHINGTON — The federal government said Thursday that it is distributing tens of thousands of masks, gloves, and other personal protective equipment to medical personnel in New York and New Jersey after seizing the materials earlier this week.
The Justice Department said FBI agents discovered the stash during an operation by its Hoarding and Price Gouging Task Force. Among the items were 192,000 N-95 masks, 130,000 surgical masks, 598,000 medical grade gloves, as well as surgical gowns, hand sanitizer and spray disinfectant.
The Department of Health and Human Services said it will pay the owner of the materials fair market value for the supplies that were confiscated. Criminal hoarding charges cannot be filed, a Justice Department official explained, because the materials were stockpiled earlier, before the government announced a crackdown.
Law enforcement officials said the materials were stored at a car repair shop in New Jersey and a residence in Brooklyn.
On Monday, the FBI arrested the homeowner, Baruch Feldheim, on charges that he lied to agents about acquiring the materials. He was also charged with assaulting a federal officer by coughing on an agent while claiming that the was infected with COVID-19.
Court documents said Feldheim offered to sell protective supplies to doctors and nurses, arranging to make one such sale through a WhatsApp chat group labeled “Virus2020!”
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.