Monsey, NY - Safety Announcement Encourages Greater Caution For Rockland's Jewish Residents
Rockland County, NY - Fueled by overwhelming concern for the safety of the littlest residents of his town, a Monsey man is issuing a strongly worded public safety announcement warning parents to be as vigilant with their children as they are with their valuables.
The announcement, which appears as a full page ad in this week’s edition of The Front Page, a weekly Monsey magazine, blasts residents for safeguarding their crystal and jewelry while allowing unsupervised children to play in the roadway, cross streets unattended, ride bikes and scooters without helmets, take rides from strangers and for living in safety violation ridden homes that have no smoke or carbon monoxide detectors.
“The way people guard their treasures says a lot about how much they value them,” reads the announcement, advising parents that allowing their children to engage in unsafe activities “makes a statement to Hakadosh Baruch Hu and to the world about what value we place on these treasures Hashem has granted us.”
Dashcam captures child on scooter darts into street.
“My goal is to raise awareness that Monsey is not a bungalow colony,” Chaim Saperstein, owner of The Front Page told VIN News. “There are real streets, with real cars, that can cause real damage when they hit a real kid who is playing on the street.”
The advertisement shows screenshots from three separate videos taken in recent weeks in Rockland County’s Jewish communities. VIN News obtained copies of all three videos.
One video, taken on Widman Court in Spring Valley, shows a group of children sitting on a curb, with one little girl darting into the street, picking up a rock and throwing it into the roadway. The only adults present in the video were seated in front of the neighboring house, clearly engaged in conversation.
“The kids were just running out in front of school busses,” said Saperstein, a father of five.
Another video shows an unaccompanied toddler crossing a street in New Square, just seconds after a car passed by. Saperstein said that it was a miracle that the child wasn’t injured.
“Without rachmanos from Hashem there could have been a levaya in New Square with a tiny coffin,” noted Saperstein.
The third video, taken from the dashcam of a police cruiser, was posted on Facebook and YouTube by the Ramapo Police Department, showing a child riding his scooter into the middle of the street directly into the path of the oncoming police car.
Saperstein said that he has discussed pedestrian safety on numerous occasions with members of the local police department.
“I had an officer who came to my office and he said of all the municipalities in the country, Ramapo is one of the few where pedestrian accident rates are going up, not down,” said Saperstein. “Some of it could be the attitude of people in our community. Some of it could be cultural things, including the fact that we do walk more than most people. The police officer even suggested that since Chasidic mothers don’t drive, they don’t understand how brakes on a car work and that a car doesn’t just stop on a dime when you hit the brakes.”
Car accidents, particularly those involving children, seem to be all too common in both the Chasidic and non-Chasidic areas of Monsey. A 15 year old Airmont boy was hospitalized in critical condition in April after being hit by a car on Route 59 while riding his bike without wearing a helmet, as previously reported on VIN News (http://bit.ly/1KaIFw4).
“I remember nearly hitting a toddler who ran right off the curb,” said former Spring Valley resident Sara Adina Baker. “They were being ‘watched’ by an older sibling who was about four years old. It felt like it was just inches but I probably stopped a few feet from the child. It was one of the most terrifying experiences of my life.”
Monsey resident Michael Steinhardt recalled finding a toddler sitting in the middle of the street in the New Hempstead area just prior to Pesach several years ago.
“I pulled over, picked up the child and walked to a nearby house where some other children were playing and a woman was vacuuming the inside of her car,” said Steinhardt. “She couldn’t hear anything over the noise of the vacuum and hadn’t noticed that her child had wandered off. I could have easily run over or simply taken the child.”
“I once saw a little kid, maybe three or four, playing in the street on W. Central Avenue, with absolutely no one watching him,” added Ari Rubin of Monsey. “It was a miracle I didn’t hit him. I knocked on the door and the woman at least had the good grace to look embarrassed and relieved but it still doesn’t address the issue.”
In another incident that took place this past Sunday, Brooklyn resident David Kornblum was driving through the Blueberry Hill area when he noticed an apparently unattended baby strapped into a stroller in front of a house, whose door was closed and shades were drawn. Kornblum stopped his car and honked his horn repeatedly, waiting for a responsible party to appear.
“I had to honk my horn for five minutes until another child finally came out and retrieved the baby,” said Kornblum.
Sapersetin, who said he saw a positive response from public service announcements he posted in his magazine reminding residents to procure proper permits to burn their chometz and build Lag B’Omer bonfires, says that the idea of reminding parents that their children’s safety is of paramount importance has been percolating in his mind for a long time. He is in the process of translating the announcement, published in conjunction with Hatzolah EMS of Rockland County, into Yiddish so that the message can be shared with an even larger number of area residents. He said that the announcement is intended as a teaching moment for parents who may not be aware that their children’s lives are potentially at risk.
“It is so incongruous,” noted Saperstein. “How is that when something bad happens, people are so good about mobilizing, saying Tehillim and starting challah baking campaigns, but we are so bad at just stopping these things b’derech hateva, by making sure these things don’t happen in the first place? It is terrible when a child gets cancer but there is nothing sadder than a preventable tragedy.”
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