Police in Brooklyn are handing out a growing number of parking tickets to members of the Jewish volunteer ambulance service Hatzalah, according to leaders of the group.
In a letter to Hatzalah members, the group’s leaders said units have received the tickets both while responding to emergencies and while parked.
The July 1 letter, sent by Chevra Hatzalah, the regional umbrella organization for local Hatzalah ambulance services, said that Hatzalah was working with the office of New York City mayor Bill de Blasio to address the problem.
Local Hatzalah organizations in Brooklyn did not respond to requests for comment, or referred the Forward to the umbrella group. But a video posted by a Hasidic activist on Twitter in early July appears to show police ticketing a Hatzalah ambulance while on an emergency call in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.
The claims of stricter NYPD treatment of Hatzalah members raises questions about whether relations between police and the Orthodox community have suffered in the wake of the sprawling corruption scandal that has rocked both the NYPD and the Orthodox community.
In recent weeks, an Orthodox businessman from Brooklyn was arrested on charges that he had bribed high-ranking police officers, and a former leader of a Brooklyn Orthodox security patrol was charged with bribing police officers in return for gun permits.
There has also been growing public scrutiny of NYPD relationships with the Orthodox security patrols known as the Shomrim.
A spokesperson for the NYPD said that there is “no active campaign to ticket Hatzalah vehicles.” The Mayor’s office did not respond to an inquiry about the discussions with Hatzalah by press time.
New York State Assemblymember Dov Hikind, who represents Boro Park, told the Forward that his staff was investigating Hatzalah’s claims.
Chevra Hatzalah’s letter to members circulated online in Orthodox social media circles. The group did not respond to multiple requests for comment. The organization is an umbrella group for sixteen regional Hatzalah organizations throughout the New York City area. Its board chair, Lower East Side power broker Heshy Jacob, passed away in late June. The organization received $220,000 in government grants in 2014, according to its tax filings.
The tensions over parking tickets come weeks after Hasidic leaders in Williamsburg held a press conference to complain about police treatment of the Orthodox manager of a grocery store who was arrested on misdemeanor assault charges after an altercation with a customer.
Contact Josh Nathan-Kazis at email@example.com or on Twitter, @joshnathankazis.
Josh Nathan-Kazis is a staff writer for the Forward. He covers charities and politics, and writes investigations and longform.