After two chaotic nights in Borough Park, in which hundreds of ultra-Orthodox protesters railed against new coronavirus restrictions, burned masks, and assaulted people in full view of the NYPD, Mayor Bill de Blasio promised that he would immediately "correct" his administration's response.
"There were some issues yesterday in terms of the NYPD's approach and the approach of the city's legal team, understanding the state's guidance," de Blasio told reporters on Thursday. "I expect that to be corrected today before anything happens this evening."
De Blasio refused to provide any specifics on what sort of issues he was referring to. The state's orders impose additional prohibitions on large gatherings in the zones within Brooklyn and Queens that have higher COVID-19 positivity rates, but the rules against physical assault have never changed.
The mayor also dismissed the idea that his NYPD has policed Black Lives Matter demonstrations held across the city differently than these demonstrations held in ultra-Orthodox communities this week, but de Blasio conceded that the city had to be clearer about "the rules of engagement" when it comes to policing a protest in a pandemic.
"I am instructing the NYPD and the Law Department and the legal experts on this to come up with a single, clear standard, and put it up publicly today," de Blasio said.
Representatives from the Mayor's Office could not immediately say when this guidance would be released.
According to the NYPD, no summonses were issued in Borough Park on Wednesday and Tuesday nights, despite video showing multiple assaults. On Wednesday night, Jacob Kornbluh, a veteran reporter with Jewish Insider, was spit on, attacked, and beaten. The NYPD officers on scene did not make any arrests. Kornbluh later tweeted that he was pressing charges.
"The attack on Jacob Kornbluh was unacceptable, and there clearly need to be consequences for the people involved, and I don't know why that hasn't happened already and it needs to happen," de Blasio said. "We will get this right."
The mayor added, "There is something here that needs to be fixed right away. And that's why I'm being abundantly clear it will be fixed today and made public. Violence is unacceptable."
During a call with reporters on Thursday, Governor Andrew Cuomo said he had spoken to Kornbluh, and added that the journalist told him that he was now worried that he might be infected after he had been spit on by protesters.
“There’s no excuse for violence especially against a reporter. This was a person who was doing his job,” Cuomo said. “It was disgusting behavior, frankly.”
Without naming de Blasio, the governor once again squarely blamed the city for failing to enforce the state’s coronavirus restrictions. Asked whether he felt the NYPD was giving the Hasidic community a grace period to accept the new rules, Cuomo replied: “Don’t be politically selective in the enforcement of the law. I know these communities are upset. You still have to enforce the law.”
The governor did not bring up his previously mentioned plan of creating a state-led task force to carry out the new shutdowns.
Borough Park is located within a red zone, meaning that houses of worship may remain open at 25% capacity, up to a maximum of 10 people, or whichever is fewer; all "non-essential" gatherings are prohibited. "Any individual who encourages, promotes or organizes mass gatherings may be fined up to $15,000/day," the state guidance declares.
This weekend marks the Jewish holiday of Simchat Torah, celebrating the end of the reading of the five books of the Torah, and is usually celebrated with large parties and dancing.
De Blasio told reporters he would not hold another press conference for five days, on Tuesday, because Monday is a city holiday, Indigenous People's Day.