Last week, American Atheists gave a sneak peek of their new controversy-courting billboards (see above) which were scheduled to go up this week. The billboard in the Muslim enclave of Paterson, NJ went up as expected—but a landlord stopped one from going up in the Hasidic neighborhood of Williamsburg: “The Jews have stopped the billboard,” American Atheists president David Silverman told Brooklyn Paper. “It’s really ugly bigotry. As a former Jew, it’s repugnant to see Jews act like this.”
Silverman, who was in Williamsburg Tuesday for what was supposed to be the unveiling of the billboard, believes powerful neighborhood rabbis convinced landlord Kenny Stier to refuse workers from installing the billboard atop his S. Fifth Street building. Silverman believe it was religious bigotry: “We sat there and watched and the billboard didn't go up,” he told CNN. "The Jewish landlord of the building saw the billboard and refused to let it go up." Stier declined to comment to both CNN and Brooklyn Paper, adding to the latter: “I don’t want to get involved in this."
Silverman said he received over a dozen e-mails from closeted atheist Hasidim about the campaign, and this incident proved how important the billboard is: "This is why atheists need to come out of the closet." Rabbi David Niederman, who called the sign “inappropriate,” countered those claims to Brooklyn Paper: “They lost their purpose in life. They’re not even going to make a dent. It’s a disgrace. The name of god is very holy to us and to the whole world.”
Williamsburg councilman Steve Levin agreed with Niederman: “Even if we were to ignore the antagonistic placement of this billboard near the Williamsburg Bridge, the content of the message is conveyed in a disrespectful manner,” said Levin. “This does not appear to be a genuine attempt to engage in a dialogue, but is here merely to insult the beliefs of this community.” According to Silverman, the billboard will be moved out of the residential area and put up in a more expensive spot off a major highway (likely the BQE) at no additional cost.