CLARKSTOWN – A Rockland County Jewish organization has sharply criticized a Clarkstown official’s call for residents to report suspected out-of-towners using local parks, calling it discriminatory and potentially dangerous.
The rebuke from Steve Gold, who chairs the Jewish Federation’s Community Relations Council, follows a Facebook post by Councilman Pete Bradley encouraging residents to call or text him if they “suspect that non-residents are using our Town Parks.”
“If I don’t personally conduct the security check, I will ensure that the appropriate town employees arrive to perform same,” the councilman wrote. “Remember: while other municipalities are out to smother all of their open space with abhorrent high-density housing, our goal is to ‘Preserve Clarkstown’ and our beautiful parks!” Bradley’s post concludes.
The offensive against non-residents using Clarkstown’s parks isn’t new: Then-town Supervisor Alex Gromack announced a more “proactive” enforcement effort by parks officers back in 2015.
But Gold said, in a letter to The Journal News/lohud on Wednesday, that county leaders’ silence about what defines a public park and who can use it “will undoubtedly lead to controversy and more if left unchecked.”
Gold questioned how Bradley or anyone else can determine who lives in the community without it being considered profiling or discriminatory.
Gold said the council’s statement was not specially targeting anti-Semitism,
“We’re not saying we wrote this because we’re concerned that he’s picking on Orthodox Jews per se; We’re writing because he’s asking people to profile people,” Gold said in a followup interview.
The town’s decades-old policy allows residents and their guests to use the parks. Signs at the town’s major parks and recreation centers inform visitors of the policy, and residents are encouraged to get a town identification card.
Bradley called Gold’s letter “highly emotional and wrought with factual inaccuracies,” and said he made it clear to Gold that he was not advocating ethnic, racial or religious profiling.
He said that although it’s impossible to determine all the reasons that would prompt a security check, some circumstances were identifiable such as personally knowing individuals who don’t live in Clarkstown, vans and buses dropping off large numbers of people, or teenagers wearing high school jackets of schools from outside of Clarkstown.
Bradley insisted his post did not request that any resident approach another person for questioning, but merely to call him so that he can notify the proper agency, or, if it’s after hours, conduct a security check himself.
Town Supervisor George Hoehmann noted that Bradley’s Facebook page did not represent official town policy.
The supervisor said he supported reserving the town parks for people who pay taxes for their upkeep.
“We’re going to protect out town facilities so there’s a safe environment,” Hoehmann said.
More recently, Bradley posted remarks about the vigil held at RCC for the eleven Jews murdered in Pittsburgh. He wrote: “What grieving do you think the MEN in that room were doing when the JCC was holding vigil at precisely the same exact time? …. Perhaps you can drive up to New Square and explain proper decorum to them. That’s why this is ultra-infuriating. Normal Jews and non-Jews alike were gneving at the JCC while they were meeting ‘the guy with the checkbook.’ Can you look at this objectively and understand how problematic this is?”
The overtly anti-semitic post was denounced by many fellow councilmen and politicians. Bradley has yet to respond.
By Robert Brum, Rockland/Westchester Journal News