Hundreds of members of the Borough Park Orthodox community took to the streets Tuesday night, defying orders to disperse and lighting a fire in protest of new state-mandated restrictions imposed on area synagogues, schools and non-essential businesses over a COVID-19 surge.
One large crowd huddled closely together at the corner of 50th Street and 15th Avenue at about 9 p.m. as community activist Heshy Tischler ripped Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio over the order that shuts down schools completely and limits houses of worship to 10 people in certain COVID-19 hot spots.
Much of Borough Park is subject to those measures — the most restrictive — which also shutter non-essential businesses. The level of restrictions, broken down into three color-coded categories, is guided by coronavirus diagnosis data.
“It’s called civil disobedience, we can fight back,” Tischler told the crowd after tearing up his face mask. “Do not allow them to torture you or scare you,” he said, referring to the elected officials.
The closures must be made no later than Friday — though a spokesman for de Blasio tweeted that they would likely begin Thursday — and run for at least two weeks.
Councilman Kalman Yeger later showed up at another protest on 13th Avenue, according to Boro Park News.
There, the lawmaker told the crowd: “We are not going to be deprived of the right that we have in America, like everybody else in America, the right to observe our religion.”
The protests swarmed in numbers later in the night, with demonstrators shutting down 13th Avenue to vehicular traffic.
Things also turned unruly when the crowd lit a rubbish fire after midnight at the intersection of 46th Street and 13th Avenue and chased away two city sheriff’s deputies who responded.
The defiant crowd chanted “Jewish lives matter” as they held their ground.
At about 1:30 a.m., FDNY firefighters and cops put out the flames, to the dismay of the protesters.
A rubbish fire in Borough Park, Brooklyn, lit in protest of new state-mandated coronavirus restrictions in the neighborhood.
Earlier in the night, Yeger was among four local Jewish lawmakers who released a joint statement slamming Cuomo over the edict.
“We are appalled by Governor Cuomo’s words and actions today. He has chosen to pursue a scientifically and constitutionally questionable shutdown of our communities,” said the statement from Yeger, state Sen. Simcha Felder, Assemblyman Simcha Eichenstein and Councilman Chaim Deutsch.
“His administration’s utter lack of coordination and communication with local officials has been an ongoing issue since the start of the pandemic, and particularly recently as we face this uptick.”
The lawmakers said that even though they represent COVID-19 hot-spot neighborhoods, the Cuomo administration had left them in the dark leading up to Tuesday’s decision.
Also brought up by the legislators was Cuomo’s choice to display PowerPoint images of New York’s Jewish community gathering en masse during his Monday press briefing.
“Governor Cuomo’s choice to single out 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 alone are responsible for rising COVID cases in New York State,” the elected officials said.
Additional reporting by Carl Campanile