A New York City neighborhood erupted in protests after Gov. Andrew Cuomo moved to reinstate restrictions on houses of worship, schools and businesses in areas where coronavirus cases are spiking.
Videos of Tuesday night’s protest on social media show hundreds of Orthodox Jewish men gathered in the streets of Borough Park, a neighborhood in Brooklyn, in some cases setting bonfires by burning masks. Video posted on social media shows a crowd swarming and knocking down a man holding a camera. Police said there were no arrests.
Mayor Bill de Blasio said Wednesday he was aware of the protests but cautioned that the city is “dealing with a health emergency,” telling New Yorkers to act accordingly.
“Even folks who disagree with these new rules to get us out of this crisis: Respect the laws, respect the instructions of the NYPD,” the Democrat said, adding that “there’ll be consequences” if people don’t.
“This is a very, very sensitive moment for the future of all of New York City,” he said. “We have to stop this problem from growing.”
The new rules announced by Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Tuesday will affect parts of Brooklyn and Queens in New York City, sections of Orange and Rockland counties in the Hudson Valley and an area within Binghamton in the Southern Tier. The restrictions are set to take effect by Friday.
Most of the New York City and Hudson Valley neighborhoods are home to large enclaves of Orthodox Jews, and community leaders have complained of being singled out for enforcement.
Four elected officials who represent Orthodox neighborhoods in New York City complained Tuesday that they had been left out of the decision-making process.
“Though we are the representatives of ‘hotspot’ neighborhoods, we have been disincluded from conversations with the governor and his leadership team as they made devastating decisions affecting the people we serve,” state Sen. Simcha Felder, Assembly member Simcha Eichenstein and City Council members Chaim Deutsch and Kalman Yeger said in a statement.
Under Cuomo’s rules, only 10 people at a time will be allowed to gather in churches and synagogues in the hearts of the virus hot spots.
The state already faced a lawsuit earlier this year from religious observers who questioned why peaceful mass protests were allowed while religious groups once faced stricter gathering limits than businesses.
Under a federal court ruling that the state is fighting, unlimited outdoor religious gatherings with social distancing are currently allowed in the state. That ruling also means both religious groups and businesses currently face a 50% indoor capacity limit, though New York City restaurants are limited to 25% capacity indoors.
The leader of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn said the governor’s new order would unjustly hamper the diocese’s ability to serve parishioners.
“Catholic Churches in Brooklyn and Queens have not had any COVID outbreaks or significant cases since re-opening on July 5th to 25% capacity. We fervently object to being told to further reduce capacity, because we have strictly adhered to COVID-19 protocols, and the safety measures have been working,” Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio said.
The new restrictions came a day after Cuomo ordered the closing of schools in nine Brooklyn and Queens ZIP codes that have accounted for more than 25% of all new infections in the city over the past two weeks while representing just 7% of the population. Schools began closing Tuesday.