Hundreds of members of the Orthodox community of Borough Park took to the streets on Tuesday evening defying the order to disperse and light a fire in protest against the new restrictions imposed by the state on synagogues in the area, schools and activities not essential to a wave of COVID-19.
A large crowd huddled side by side at the corner of 50th Street and 15th Avenue around 9:00 PM. as a community activist Heshy Tischler wrested the order from Governor Cuomo and Mayor de Blasio to completely close schools and limit places of worship to 10 people in some COVID-19 hot spots.
Much of Borough Park is subject to these measures – the most restrictive – which also shut down non-essential businesses. The level of restrictions, broken down into three color-coded categories, is driven by the coronavirus diagnosis data.
The closures must be made no later than Friday – although a spokesperson for de Blasio tweeted that they will likely begin on Thursday – and will last for at least two weeks.
Councilor Kalman Yeger later turned up for another protest on 13th Avenue, according to Boro Park News.
There, the legislator he told the crowd: “We will not be deprived of the right that we have in America, like everyone else in America, the right to observe our religion.”
The protests multiplied later in the night with protesters closing 13th Avenue to vehicular traffic.
Things also got unruly when the crowd lit a garbage fire after midnight at the intersection of 46th Street and 13th Avenue and kicked out two of the city’s deputies who responded.
The rebellious crowd sang “Jews’ Lives Matter” while holding their position.
At around 1.30 am the firefighters and police of the FDNY put out the flames to the dismay of the demonstrators.
Earlier in the night, Yeger was among four local Jewish lawmakers who issued a joint statement denouncing Governor Cuomo about the edict.
We are shocked by Governor Cuomo’s words and actions today. He has chosen to pursue a scientifically and constitutionally questionable closure of our communities, “said the statement by Yeger, Sen. Simcha Felder, member of the Simcha Eichenstein Assembly and Councilor Chaim Deutsch.
“His administration’s total lack of coordination and communication with local officials has been an ongoing problem since the start of the pandemic, and particularly recently as we address this increase.”
Lawmakers said that even though they represent COVID-19 hotspots, the Cuomo administration remained in the dark until Tuesday’s decision.
Also raised by lawmakers, it was Cuomo’s choice to show PowerPoint images of the New York Jewish community gathering en masse during Monday’s press conference.
Governor Cuomo’s choice to locate a particular religious group, complete with a slideshow of photos to highlight his point, was outrageous.
“His language was dangerous and divisive, and left the implication that Orthodox Jews are solely responsible for the rising COVID cases in New York State,” elected officials said.
Additional reporting by Carl Campanile