TAG | New York
Cross-posted on the Corner
The New York Times reports:
[New York’s] Metropolitan Transportation Authority approved new guidelines for advertisements on Thursday, prohibiting those that it “reasonably foresees would imminently incite or provoke violence or other immediate breach of the peace.
The 8-to-0 vote by the authority’s board came three days after pro-Israel ads characterizing Islamist opponents of the Jewish state as being “savage” began appearing in subway stations, setting off vandalism, denunciations of the authority and calls for the ads’ removal.
The authority had initially rejected the ads, citing their “demeaning” language. The group responsible for the ads, the American Freedom Defense Initiative, sued, and in July won a federal court ruling on First Amendment grounds.
“We’ve gotten to a point where we needed to take action today,” Joseph J. Lhota, the authority’s chairman, said at a news conference on Thursday.
If this power is abused (not, of course that such a thing could ever, ever happen), it enshrines the heckler’s veto.
The authority said it believed the new guidelines adhered to the court’s ruling and would withstand any potential First Amendment challenge. Under the new policy, the authority will continue to allow so-called viewpoint ads, but each will be required to include a disclaimer noting that the ad does not imply the authority’s endorsement of its views.
The disclaimer is, of course, fine. Mind you, I’m not sure that I want that MTA have “views” about anything other than the operation of a transportation system.
“You deal with a free-speech issue with more free speech,” Mr. Lhota said.
During the public comment portion of the authority’s meeting on Thursday, several speakers assailed the placement of the ads….Many at the meeting held signs echoing the Occupy Wall Street movement’s message. “The subway belongs to the 99 percent,” they read. “Take the racist ads down.”
Pamela Geller, the executive director of the American Freedom Defense Initiative, also spoke, though she was repeatedly shouted down.
Whatever you may think about Pam Geller (or the ads) that doesn’t sound a lot like what “dealing[ing] with a free-speech issue with more speech” was meant to mean.
Via the New York Post:
Brooklyn has lost its right to bare arms. Ultra-Orthodox Jewish business owners are lashing out at customers at dozens of stores in Williamsburg, trying to ban sleeveless tops and plunging necklines from their aisles. It’s only the latest example of the Hasidic community trying to enforce their strict religious laws for everyone who lives near their New York enclave.
“No Shorts, No Barefoot, No Sleeveless, No Low Cut Neckline Allowed in the Store,” declare the English/Spanish signs that appear in stores throughout the Hasidic section of the hipster haven. The retailers do not just serve Jews — they include stores for hardware, clothes and electronics. Hebrew speakers are also put on notice: “Entry here in modest dress only,” the signs read. When a Post reporter visited Lee Avenue in a sleeveless dress, some store owners stared at her shoulders, while others refused to look her in the face. The policy, an outgrowth of the sect’s 200-year tradition of dressing modestly, is rankling non-Hasidic residents.
“Religious freedom is one thing, but we do not have the right to enforce our beliefs on someone else,” charged Bob Kim, 39, comfy in tight jeans and a T-shirt.
“Why should they be able to say that on their signs? It’s not OK,” added Hana Dagostin, 32, wearing a sleeveless top.
“People should be able to wear what . . . makes them comfortable,” said Fabian Vega, 34, also wearing shorts and a T-shirt.
Store owners and managers defended the dress code.
“We have our way of life, and this is the way we want everyone to respect that,” said Shalom Cooper, a manager at Glauber’s Cuisine on Division Avenue.
Orthodox men typically wear suits and black hats in public, while women dress in long-sleeved blouses and below-the-knee skirts.
“We’re not concerned about the way women dress in Manhattan — but we are concerned with bringing 42nd Street to this neighborhood,” said Mark Halpern, who is Orthodox and lives in Williamsburg.
Some called the policy un-American.
“It’s further evidence of this era’s move toward Balkanization in the United States,” said Marci Hamilton, a First Amendment scholar at Cardozo School of Law. “It’s no longer sufficient that they have shared norms among themselves, they are increasingly trying to impose their norms on the rest of the culture.”
The dress code appears to be the latest effort by the Hasidic community to separate itself from the greater population. There’s an Orthodox ambulance service and a private police force called the Shomrim. On the B110, a privately operated public bus line that runs through Orthodox Williamsburg and Borough Park, women are told to sit in back, also in accordance with Orthodox customs. The neighborhood embarked on a successful 2009 crusade to remove bike lanes from a 14-block stretch of Bedford Avenue — fearful of the scantily clad gals who would pedal through. Even Hillary Clinton was caught up in the mix last year — her image in the situation room the night of Osama bin Laden’s killing was scrubbed from a Brooklyn-based Hasidic newspaper because readers might have been offended by a woman’s presence in a sea of men.
“There’s a movement toward insularity among religious groups. It’s dangerous for tolerance, and it’s also dangerous for peace,” Hamilton said.
City lawyer Gabriel Taussig said the signs appeared kosher, provided they don’t “impermissibly discriminate based upon gender, religion or some other protected class.”
But the dress code covers up a bigger problem, according to Shulem Deen, a former Hasid who now lives in Bensonhurst.
“It goes to the basic human value of empathizing with others that are not like you, and I think the Hasidim have no awareness of such a concept,” he said
It’s up to those who own the stores to set the dress code for their customers, but it’s difficult not to feel a little depressed by this tale. E Pluribus Unum and all that…
Via the New York World:
On the morning of October 12, Melissa Franchy boarded the B110 bus in Brooklyn and sat down near the front. For a few minutes she was left in silence, although the other passengers gave her a noticeably wide berth. But as the bus began to fill up, the men told her that she had to get up. Move to the back, they insisted.
They were Orthodox Jews with full beards, sidecurls and long black coats, who told her that she was riding a “private bus” and a “Jewish bus.” When she asked why she had to move, a man scolded her.
“If God makes a rule, you don’t ask ‘Why make the rule?’” he told Franchy, who rode the bus at the invitation of a New York World reporter. She then moved to the back where the other women were sitting. The driver did not intervene in the incident.
The B110 bus travels between Williamsburg and Borough Park in Brooklyn. It is open to the public, and has a route number and tall blue bus stop signs like any other city bus. But the B110 operates according to its own distinct rules. The bus line is run by a private company and serves the Hasidic communities of the two neighborhoods. To avoid physical contact between members of opposite sexes that is prohibited by Hasidic tradition, men sit in the front of the bus and women sit in the back.
Comments off · Posted by Andrew Stuttaford in Uncategorized
Via the New York Times (emphasis added):
The state budget plan that moved toward enactment on Wednesday calls for 10 percent cuts in aid to public colleges and universities, but it would add about $18 million a year in tuition assistance for students attending some private religious schools.
The added money would be available to any theological student who met a new set of criteria for the state’s so-called Tuition Assistance Program grants. The major potential beneficiaries would be an estimated 5,000 men who attend dozens of Orthodox rabbinical schools in New York, state officials and religious leaders said.
Assemblyman Dov Hikind, a Democrat whose Brooklyn district includes a large Orthodox population, called the additional financing “a matter of equity, to rectify the fact that New York State has denied rabbinical college students tuition assistance for all these years.”
Mr. Hikind and other lawmakers have sought unsuccessfully for about 10 years to adopt the new criteria by amending the Tuition Assistance Program rules, eliminating a long-established ban on state tuition assistance for undergraduate students who attend religious schools, like yeshivas, that are not chartered by the state Board of Regents.
In negotiations this month, Republican leaders in the Senate asked that the new rules be included as part of the 2011-12 budget agreement. Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and Democratic leaders in the Assembly have agreed, said Jeffrey Gordon, a spokesman for the State Division of the Budget.