Hundreds of celebratory Orthodox Jews in Brooklyn flouted coronavirus social distancing rules Monday night, swarming borough streets to mark the Lag B’Omer holiday, according to witnesses and videos.
Cell phone footage taken by Brooklynite Richard Ward shows dozens of members of the Orthodox community dancing hand-in-hand to blaring music, while others gathered in the street and around a bonfire near Myrtle Avenue and Skillman Street in Bedford-Stuyvesant.
Ward, 33, a Crown Heights resident, told The Post Tuesday that he stumbled upon the shocking scene of an estimated 200 people while making a food delivery and called the cops.
“When I first saw it, I was in shock,” said Ward as he noted that many of those gathered were not wearing face coverings. “I was like, this is crazy.”
“I was scared at first. I was worried. It was real scary for me. That’s why I took the time to call the police, I know people dying from this thing,” Ward said in reference to the coronavirus, which has claimed the lives of more than 20,000 Big Apple residents.
Ward described the raucous scene as a “block party, pretty much.”
“Everybody was outside. There were people hanging from the windows. They had a big bonfire in the middle. People dancing and celebrating,” Ward said.
Ward noted when he called 911 he was told by a dispatcher that what he was reporting was “not an emergency,” so he called 311.
He then saw an NYPD van passing by and flagged down the cops, who then called for backup and eventually broke up the gathering within an hour, Ward said.
Meanwhile, photos posted to social media show throngs of Orthodox Jews, who were not wearing masks, crowding outside at another location in the Borough Park neighborhood.
A member of the Orthodox Jewish community and a 40-year resident of the neighborhood told The Post that he witnessed about 100 people gathering in a lot at 55th Street between 14th and 15th avenues to celebrate the Jewish holiday.
“I heard music and I went down and I saw in a vacant lot approximately 100 people singing, dancing,” said the man, who asked to remain anonymous, adding, that “95 percent were not wearing masks and they were not socially distancing.”
The local said he was “very upset” by the sight, so he then called 911 at around 9:30 p.m. and within 10 minutes police had showed up, he said.
“They were going around, they were breaking it up,” said the man.
About “45 minutes later the lot was completely empty,” he said.
The resident pointed out that “90 percent of my neighbors are doing the right thing with socially distancing, but it’s 10 percent who are endangering everyone else’s lives.”
An NYPD spokeswoman said that cops responded to a 911 call of a large group at 48th Street and 15th Avenue Monday night.
Cops saw the large gathering, and gave orders for them to disperse, the spokeswoman said.
“The group, within minutes, peacefully complied without further incident. No arrests or summonses were issued,” according to the spokeswoman.
The NYPD did not respond to requests for comment regarding whether any summonses or arrests were made at the Bedford-Stuyvesant gathering.
It’s not the first time that members of the city’s Orthodox and Hasidic communities flouted social distances rules implemented to help stem the spread of the deadly bug.
There have been several instances where large gatherings have taken place for funerals in the Big Apple amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Additional reporting by Craig McCarthy
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