The Kiryas Joel Principle

Posted on 16. Dec, 2009 by in John Smock

Photo Credit: NY Times

Photo Credit: NY Times

It’s awfully cold for a naked bike ride.

But it wasn’t the nudity in this Gawker post about a planned protest in Williamsburg which caught my eye (no, really).

The Brooklyn Paper reported that 50 or so bikers will be riding in the buff (or close to it) to protest the removal of the Bedford Avenue bike lane. As I covered in a timeline about the bike-related tensions in the neighborhood, the battle has mostly been framed as a result of the differences between the hipster crowd in Northside Williamsburg and the Hasidic community south of Broadway and along Division Avenue.

Part of the pain from this cycling movement has come from comments made last year about concerns in the Orthodox Jewish community – mainly, that women were wearing provocative outfits while riding their bikes through the Satmar streets.

And here’s the response from one of the organizers who plans to pedal and flash:

“If you can’t handle scantily clad women … live in a place where you can have your own sanctuary, like upstate,” said [Heather] Loop, 27.

Which brings me to my raised eyebrows.

“Upstate?” I asked myself, probably out loud. “Where have I heard that before?” Oh yeah, I remember: in the world of amazing things you learn about in journalism school.

Orange County boasts the poorest of all towns in the United States, according to the 2008 U.S. Census figures. 40 percent of residents there are on food stamps. The median age? 15 YEARS OLD.

(I write that in caps to highlight the importance of it: FIFTEEN. THAT’S THE LOWEST IN THE COUNTRY.) Keep reading:

From wikipedia:

The median income for a household in the village was $15,138, and the median income for a family was $15,372. Males had a median income of $25,043 versus $16,364 for females. The per capita income for the village was $4,355. About 61.7% of families and 62.2% of the population were below the poverty line, including 63.9% of those under age 18 and 50.5% of those age 65 or over.

Kiryas Joel, boasted as a “Chasidic oasis” on the town’s website, was founded in 1979 by a rabbi from Williamsburg who decided he had had enough of the influences of newcomers to the neighborhood. So what did he do?

He moved upstate. And others followed.

Kiryas Joel, as one might imagine, has been growing exponentially. Housing and schools are the most common constructions, and expansion into the areas of neighboring villages and towns in Orange County has created serious tension in recent years.

In 2007, the New York Times covered the expansion:

Kiryas Joel, an Orthodox Jewish enclave in southern Orange County, grew faster than any other community in New York State between 2000 and 2006, according to an analysis by The New York Times of Census Bureau data released this morning.

Who knows what kind of backlash there will be after Saturday’s protest.

But given that it’s the Sabbath, I think nudity might go unnoticed.

2 Responses to “The Kiryas Joel Principle”

  1. Simon

    20. Dec, 2009

    I live in Orange County not far from Kiryas Joel. It has been fascinating to watch the cultural and political dynamics unfold as it’s grown over several decades — I first became aware of the village and some of these issues in the early 1980s, soon after I moved here. In the last few years tensions between the village and its leaders and adjoining communities and residents has continued to grow, as has the geographic region that is affected in one way or another. The Village has proposed constructing a new pipeline to carry water from the NY City water system, specifically the Catskill aqueduct where it runs through the northern part of the county, to provide additional water supply for ongoing growth. An affiliated organization purchased wells outside the village, in the Town of Cornwall, right next door to wells that supply the Cornwall municipal water system, raising concerns that KJ’s withdrawal of water will decrease the Cornwall supply. All of this, as you might imagine, is ratcheting up tensions and fears. There is no sign of any resolution. Some kind of mediated dialogue would be useful (hey folks, can’t we all just learn to live together?) but I don’t know if that’s feasible.

  2. wasktortews

    10. Jan, 2010

    Хороший сайт. Так держать!!!