Crown Heights, 20 Years After The Riots

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

It's been twenty years since Crown Heights erupted into race-fueled riots. Rabbi Robert Kaplan, director of Cause-NY, a division of the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York and Letitia James, City Council member from District 35 in Brooklyn, discuss the legacy of the riots and how the neighborhood has changed.


Letitia James and Rabbi Robert Kaplan

Comments [20]


Agreed. Brian, I could have thought of better topics.
What ever inspired it??
I thought that was QUITE a statement from Letitia James. Do we at least know it as - FACT?

Aug. 24 2011 02:25 PM

@ jgarbuz

Those rose-colored glasses, again???

Aug. 23 2011 11:38 AM
Bob from Brooklyn

Schneerson, that grand rebee never offered any apology for that incident, of a car in his entourage hitting and killing a child.

Aug. 23 2011 11:18 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

"Hatzollah" means "Rescue" in Hebrew, and it is the name of the Hassidic community's privately funded ambulance service. The reason for its existence is (a) the hassidic communities are insular and try to be as self-supporting as possible; and (b) the fear that regular, secular government ambulances cannot do things in accordance to Jewish ritual law that this religious community requires.

Now, apparently they did take the Jewish casualty and left the child Cato for the regular ambulance service, and this enraged the Black onlookers to no end. OTOH, had the Hatzollah taken the child for treatment, who knows what other charges might have been hurled if the child had died in Jewish hands, etc.?

Regardless, there was no love lost between the Hassidim and the Blacks at that time, and hopefully such things will not happen again. Best not to dwell on it.

Aug. 23 2011 10:36 AM

Please remember to keep comments on topic and civil.

Aug. 23 2011 10:35 AM
Matt from Manhattan

Unfortunately nobody has mentioned a major facet to the Crown Heights situation -- the Orthodox Jewish community harbored and continues to harbor many racists -- independent of this specific Crown Heights incident. (Try finding one member who voted for Obama). So while that doesn't justify any violence, I'm sure that it helps fuel the resentment against the O.J. community

Aug. 23 2011 10:29 AM
MP from Brooklyn

So what really DID happen with the ambulance (or ambulances)? Twenty years later, I just recently heard someone say that that the Hazzollah ambulance picked up one of the Jewish people involved in the accident and left the injured boy behind. So if it was just a rumor, it is one that is still alive and well.

Aug. 23 2011 10:27 AM
Laura from UWS

A healthcare worker, an eyewitness to the accident, who knew the victim and his family told me she could see that Gavin was killed instantly. She saw the Jewish driver make TWO phone calls--obviously, one was for an ambulance with at least two people which would be needed to move the victim, and one to the Jewish ambulance which came with only the driver (who couldn't have moved the victim by himself safely).

Aug. 23 2011 10:24 AM
Andy B. from New York

Ari L. Goldman, who covered the story for the Times in 1991, wrote in the current issue of New York Jewish Week: “Over those three days I also saw journalism go terribly wrong. The city’s newspapers, so dedicated to telling both sides of the story in the name of objectivity and balance, often missed what was really going on. Journalists initially framed the story as a ‘racial’ conflict and failed to see the anti-Semitism inherent in the riots.”

Aug. 23 2011 10:23 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

Thank you Brian for stirring up bad memories! That's what we need now in New York in these increasingly tough times! Stirring up past hatreds.

BTW, I am the child of Holocaust survivors, and I grew up in the Housing Projects in Brownsville, and lived and even had a business there in Brownsville for a long time. And I lived through riots, blackouts, personal physical attacks as a kid growing up the projects, etc.

Nonetheless, the fact is, we Jews are not totally blameless either. Best let sleeping dogs lay.

Aug. 23 2011 10:23 AM
DarkSymbolist from NYC!

There was racism and anti-semitism coming from both sides and it exploded over this incident. Why does it have to be either or..?

@ John
Dinkins was ineffective in many ways but Ghouliani was a scumbag

Aug. 23 2011 10:21 AM
Ralph from Staten Island

By the way, was the driver of the grand rebbi ever returned to NYC or is he still in Israel, where he fled to, after the ambulance ride? Is he still there or did he return?
Just curious.

Aug. 23 2011 10:20 AM
john from office

The Hassidic community does get special treatment, because they vote, work and are not hanging on the corner looking for someone to rob. Sorry, but that is politics in New York.

Best event was the stripping of Jimmy Breslin of his pants by oppressed black youth.

Aug. 23 2011 10:19 AM
Alison from New York Ave. at Eastern Parkway, Brooklyn

There is still a quiet division of black and Jewish, at least geographically. Most of the Lubavitcher community is south of Eastern Parkway, while it is quite rare to see a Jewish person living or shopping north of the Parkway. In the past three years (I've been in the neighborhood for nine), I've seen the place open up with young Jewish families buying on my block (I'm north of Eastern Parkway), though I have heard a few comments by black homeowners who are reluctant to sell to them.

Aug. 23 2011 10:18 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

There is always a "justification" for ethnic tensions everywhere in the world, and it doesn't take much to stir up a mob.

There is only one rule that can keep different ethnic groups from each other's throats:

LIVE AND LET LIVE! You don't have to "love" your neighbor. Just live and let live, and do best not to tread on each other.

Aug. 23 2011 10:16 AM
john from office

Dinkins is our Jimmy Carter. On more then one time he stood with the criminal class and not the police. When he was not busy being a fancy dresserl, he was visiting criminals in the hospital who shot cops.

Thank god for Guliani

When will Sharpton pay the price for his crimes??

Aug. 23 2011 10:14 AM
kate from Manhattan

As a teenager in Park Slope at the time (Jewish but reform) these riots were incredibly distressing. But I also remember attending a Celebrate Brooklyn concert in Prospect Park shortly after where the very peaceful and diverse crowd was a great affirmation that the events in Crown Heights had not redefined our borough.

Aug. 23 2011 10:13 AM
Bill from Greenpoint

Here we go tiptoeing; "rioting took the life". How sickening. He was MURDERED. STABBED. Just say it already.
20 years later nobody wants to say it. The first incident was an accident, the second was murder.

Aug. 23 2011 10:13 AM
Tracy from NYC

I moved in Crown Heights in 2001. Being of Afro-Caribbean descent, I've head the opinions of that portion of the community and many of them still to be resentful about what they perceive to be special treatment received by the Hasidic community. And I feel the Hasidic community’s distrust of me as a member of what might be seen as the other side of the conflict. I am amazed at the number of people saying in the press that the community is getting along today. It seems like there is still a quiet simmering anger there…

Aug. 23 2011 10:12 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

What is the point in dredging up this horrible incident? Just to kill some radio time? The point is that relations between Hassidim and African-Americans are amicable today, and dredging up such painful memories is not helpful in bad economic times.

There are enough things to worry and think about.

Aug. 23 2011 10:05 AM

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