Thank you for your extended and excellent coverage last month of the 20th anniversary of the Crown Heights riots. However, your newspaper failed to mention the valiant efforts of one significant individual: my friend and mentor, Franklyn H. Snitow.
He was the lead counsel for the Jewish community of Crown Heights in its federal lawsuit against the City of New York, Mayor David Dinkins and Police Commissioner Lee Brown, entitled, Estate of Rosenbaum, et al. v. The City of New York, et al. I can attest from personal knowledge of Snitow’s hard work and numerous sacrifices, personal and otherwise, to assure that the rights of the riots’ victims were vindicated. Through his tireless efforts, he secured a seven-figure settlement for the plaintiffs and, more importantly, forced the City of New York to apologize for its horrible conduct throughout those three horrible days in August of 1991. He also subjected then-Mayor David Dinkins to four days of depositions in which Dinkins was compelled, for the first time, to answer for his awful misconduct during the Crown Heights riots.
Additionally, I want to correct an often-stated misconception regarding the Crown Heights lawsuit. Dinkins was never “dismissed” from the lawsuit. Rather, his taxpayer-funded attorneys merely secured a ruling from the court granting Dinkins “qualified immunity” from any monetary liability. He always remained a named defendant for purposes of the plaintiffs’ claims for declaratory relief, i.e., that his conduct would be declared unconstitutional by the court, and for purposes of the plaintiffs’ claims for injunctive relief, i.e., that he, or any future mayor, would be forever enjoined from conducting himself in that way again.
Most importantly, had the case proceeded to trial, Mr. Dinkins would still have had to testify in open court regarding his conduct during those three days.
E. Zevi Fischer