City Closes Streets to Vehicular Traffic in Deference to Religious Observants

In a move unprecedented in this city and perhaps in the country as well, the municipal administration has agreed to deflect vehicular traffic from two neighborhoods in deference to the wishes of religious observants. Mayor John V. Lindsay announced yesterday that automobiles and trucks will be barred from the hearts of the Borough Park and Williamsburg sections of Brooklyn–both largely populated by Orthodox Jews–on Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. as of this Saturday. The ban will be effective “for an indefinite period.” the Mayor said, but it was understood it was likely the project would run experimentally for six to eight weeks, with the ban to be reinstituted next spring if the experiment is successful. The ban was the culmination of a series of conferences between City Hall officials and Jewish leaders of the two communities. The latter had three main objectives: To obtain for the Orthodox Jews the same right to walk freely in their neighborhoods at least one day a week as the residents in other areas where the city has been banning vehicular traffic at certain times and transforming the streets into pedestrian malls; to gain increased protection for the Jews, several of whom have been injured by cars; and to seek a reduction in the two areas’ pollution level through the barring of motor vehicles.

A City Hall spokesman told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency that the plan was evolved primarily “in deference to the Orthodox Jewish beliefs” of the residents of the area, who walk in large numbers to and from synagogue every Saturday. The spokesman said the pollution factor was also “a major consideration.” He called the project “an interesting experimental concept.” and said the city would monitor the reactions of pedestrians. Rabbi Bernard Weinberger of the Williamsburg YMHA-YWHA, a leader in the drive for the car ban, told the JTA he thought the project “is going to work out magnificently.” He said that the success of the Borough Park-Williamsburg experiment would give impetus to similar projects in Crown Heights, Brooklyn and Washington Heights, Manhattan, both largely Jewish sections, and in several Jewish sections of Queens. The Borough Park section designated for the traffic ban is 14th Avenue from 43rd to 58th Streets. The 14th Avenue bus will not be affected. In Williamsburg, traffic will be banned on Lee Avenue from Roebling to Heywood Streets, a span of half a mile. The bus on the southeast side of Lee Avenue will be rerouted to the next block over that length. The City Hall spokesman said the inconvenience to rerouted cars and trucks would be negligible.

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