By Libby Herz
New York City is known as the city that never sleeps, but many Orthodox Jews feel they are living through a nightmare under the leadership of Mayor Bill de Blasio. According to the FBI, antisemitic incidents rose by twenty-six percent, and Jews are three times more likely to experience hate crimes than any other ethnic and religious group. A disproportionate amount of anti-Jewish hate crimes have taken place at our front door, and Crown Heights residents are demanding change. New York needs a strong leader who takes action, and who will lead a safe and peaceful city.
The candidates for the upcoming New York mayoral election in November 2021 are Eric Adams on the Democratic ticket and Curtis Sliwa on the Republican one. Both candidates are familiar faces on the streets of Crown Heights.
After years in the police force, Adams was elected a State Senator representing the Crown Heights neighborhood before ascending to become Borough President of Brooklyn. He has formed deep bonds over the years with key figures in the Jewish community and is well familiar with its establishments and institutions.
Curtis Sliwa, a radio talk show host who founded the Guardian Angels patrol group, is also recognized on the streets of Crown Heights. During the Crown Heights riots in 1991, he and his volunteers wearing their signature red berets and matching jackets stood guard in the neighborhood and have remained outspoken against crime and antisemitic attacks.
In lieu of the upcoming election, we spoke to small business owners and some residents about their concerns and the policies they would like the next mayor to implement and focus on.
“I hope the new mayor will address affordable housing and the lack of public safety,” says community activist Noochie Gross. The number-one concern for Moshe Klein of Little People’s Clothes on Kingston Avenue is the safety and security of our community and the city. He also hopes that the mayor will be openly supportive of the yeshiva system and the Orthodox way of life.
Support for the NYPD, and clean streets are major concerns for Yudi Eber of Eber’s Liquor Store on Kingston Avenue. “People feel that the city is going back to a period of neglect,” Eber says, “it affects the tourists and customers who avoid shopping in person due to fear for their safety.”
Menachem Light, CEO of Buggy TLC located on Empire Boulevard, has faced a rash of burglaries by the same folks time after time. “The issue for me is crime and the ability for criminals to commit a crime, knowing that within hours they will be back on the streets, and to then commit the same crime again,” he said, adding that the NYPD has not been able to do much about the burglaries he endured.
The staff at Gombo’s Heimishe Bakery use public transit to get to the shop early in the morning. “My top priority is the safety of folks taking public transit, and overall public safety,” says owner, Levi Gombo.
Naftali Kahan of Kahan’s Superette and Ariel Pinson of Weinstein’s Hardware want the next mayor to support yeshivas, and lower the spike in crime – especially gun violence.
Dovid Hershkowitz of Sushi Spot 2 and Boeuf & Bun says he’s worried about the #DefundPolice movement but is equally concerned about the harassment of the multiple agencies which spout conflicting messages. “I hope the next mayor ensures that one message is sent from all agencies,” he says. “Store owners risk facing unnecessary fees and fines due to confusing guidelines.”
Menachem Sheinberger of Holesome Bagels and Sauce N Cheese echoes this sentiment, saying the bureaucracy “hampers small businesses like mine from operating.” Shlomie Rotter of Primo Hatters noted how “One agency says ‘A’ while a second says ‘B’, which conflicts with agency ‘A.’”
Mrs. Chaya Pruss, owner of Everything But the Baby, would like the mayor to address inequality in property taxes. “Why is it that those in Park Slope and other well-off neighborhoods pay fewer property taxes on a home that is worth double than a Crown Heights or East Flatbush home?” She asks.
Homelessness and the lack of care for those with mental health issues are at the top of the list for Mendel Votel, owner of Hamafitz Judaica.
Lastly, Avremi Scheinfeld from Abe’s Corner points out that the city has stopped using small businesses as an ATM to fill budget gaps, as they did prior to the pandemic. “I hope the next mayor will have city agencies help guide businesses to be in compliance rather than fining us for any infractions that they find,” he says.
Community activists say that the community is in desperate need of strong leadership and are urging residents to vote in the 2021 mayoral elections.
Election day is on Tuesday, November 2, 2021. Polls are open from 6 AM to 9 PM. Early voting period and absentee voting is October 23- October 31, 2021.