Orthodox Jews cut locks on closed park in NYC day after de Blasio marched with Floyd protest crowds

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Several Orthodox Jews cut locks on a neighborhood park in New York City Monday just a day after Mayor Bill de Blasio marched with massive crowds to commemorate George Floyd, in violation of his own coronavirus social distancing rules.

Earlier, the Washington Examiner reported, a crew from the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation was seen welding shut the gates to Middleton Playground in the Williamsburg area in order to prevent its use during the now-waning coronavirus pandemic.

https://twitter.com/JFNYC1/status/1272546664654548993

Later, the welds were removed and replaced with regular chains. Angry residents gathered to protest the closures, at which time some of them broke the chains on both ends of the park.

The Washington Examiner noted that Assemblyman Joe Lentol criticized the closure of the park, tweeting that it is “unacceptable” to disallow children to play in the park. He demanded that de Blasio reopen the city’s parks and back off coronavirus restrictions.

The reopening of the park angered de Blasio, who claimed that he wouldn’t allow New Yorkers to get away with such acts.

“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,” he was quoted as saying by New York Times reporter Michael Gold.

The park closure came just a day after de Blasio and perhaps thousands of New Yorkers marched with Black Lives Matter supporters in remembrance of Floyd, a black Minneapolis resident who died at the hands of police last month.

De Blasio proudly posted photos of his participation in the march on the official NYC mayor’s Twitter account. In one photo, de Blasio is seen addressing marchers without a mask.

De Blasio’s participation in the march, while continuing to enforce social distancing and mask-wearing everywhere else, drew a lot of negative reaction.

Just days ago, de Blasio said that going to parks while coronavirus was still present posed too much of a “risk,” though weeks of protests over the Floyd incident were permitted.

“Out of an abundance of caution, the playgrounds just created too much of a risk to families, of the spread of the disease,” he told a press conference, just before he justified allowing protesters to violate the same social distancing rules.

“I do think the moment that this city, this nation has gone through in the last two weeks or so is something very particular, very painful, very intense, very challenging,” he said. “But also a moment where literally decades and centuries of the demand for change came forward, and real change is happening as a result.”

That said, the high-profile closure of a park in a predominantly Jewish neighborhood is likely to add to perceptions that de Blasio may harbor some anti-Semitism.

In April, de Blasio issued the “Jewish community” a warning, threatening to arrest people who gathered in violation of social distancing rules after a funeral held for a rabbi in the Williamsburg neighborhood.

“Something absolutely unacceptable happened in Williamsburg tonite: a large funeral gathering in the middle of this pandemic. When I heard, I went there myself to ensure the crowd was dispersed. And what I saw WILL NOT be tolerated so long as we are fighting the Coronavirus,” de Blasio said.

At the time, Freddi Goldstein, the mayor’s press secretary, retweeted photos of the funeral, which showed a large crowd of people gathered in a street after someone snitched on them.

No arrests were made or summonses issued, according to reports, but the NYPD did send officers to the scene to break up the crowd.

Back then, de Blasio said his social distancing policy came with “zero tolerance” for violators.

“We have lost so many these last two months + I understand the instinct to gather to mourn. But large gatherings will only lead to more deaths + more families in mourning. We will not allow this. I have instructed the NYPD to have one standard for this whole city: zero tolerance,” he wrote on Twitter April 28.

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Jon Dougherty

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