Orthodox Jewish Brooklynites took matters—and bolt cutters—into their own hands on Monday evening after NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio ordered a park in their neighborhood to be welded shut just one day after the borough saw a massive protest in support of black transgender people.
A pair of videos shared on Twitter that evening showed members of Brooklyn’s Orthodox Jewish community cutting open the lock on the Middleton Playground in South Williamsburg. According to the National Review, the New York City Parks and Recreation department had welded shut one of the parks’ four entrances Monday morning. Later that day, they undid the weld and replaced it with a chain and padlock.
— Satmar Headquarters (@HQSatmar) June 15, 2020
“Playgrounds across the City are closed for the safety of our children, and we will engage with this community to find a solution,” a city Parks Department representative said at the time.
This incident is the most recent of at least 25 break-ins the park has experienced during de Blasio’s selectively applied lockdown.
Some borough residents were not pleased with the move to allow children to exercise and play in the park, as evidenced by a video showing a local woman accosting the group.
Things getting heated in #Williamsburg #Brooklyn when local resident furious that lock to park was broken to allow children to play. Thousands protest each day with approval of @NYCMayor, but 100 children can't play in a park. pic.twitter.com/yNMxpZfG75
— NYC Scanner (@NYScanner) June 15, 2020
Before breaking the lock, leaders in the community hosted a small rally calling on de Blasio to grant the Jewish community the same autonomy he has given Black Lives Matter protesters.
The rally was led by Assembly Member Joseph Lentol, who said that he did not personally witness the locks being cut but that he understands the “frustration” that would lead to it.
“When attending today’s rally, I said I believe that the playground should be open and said so very strongly,” he said. “Our families do not feel that they are being heard. I see this rally as a peaceful message, with the clipping of the locks as a strong signal that the families are unhappy and fed up. They want activities for their children and they want to be heard. The city must come up with a better plan than cutting off access to playgrounds entirely.”
In a Tuesday press conference, de Blasio denounced the individuals who dared to open up and use the parks their tax dollars pay for.
“We’re not going to allow people to take the law into their own hands,” the mayor said, adding that playgrounds will remain closed until the city reaches the second phase of the reopening process. “I understand people’s frustrations, but if folks act prematurely and that causes the disease to start spreading again, then that’s the kind of thing that will undermine our ability to get to phase two and stay in phase two.”
De Blasio’s apparent hypocrisy regarding just who may congregate in his city amid the pandemic has sparked no shortage of outrage.
Earlier this month, the same de Blasio who threatened zero tolerance toward the Jewish community and others who violate lockdown orders in the name of “stopping this disease and saving lives” also applauded his daughter for being arrested during a massive protest against police brutality and was seen shaking hands and dialoguing with protesters.
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