Dear Clarkstown Parents and Residents:
I cannot get past what occurred last Wednesday at the Clarkstown Board of Education meeting and if I do not say my piece I will not be able to look at myself in the mirror. The entire Clarkstown community knows exactly what I am about to confront here and likely know far better than I about the magnitude of the issue(s). The ‘hush hush’ don’t look into ‘its eyes’ mentality is in my opinion a far worse sin, as it is an act of enabling, and permits the wrong to set strong and spreading roots. I have previously shared a link to Philip Zimbardo’s lecture on the psychology of evil on TED.com (on the Clarkstown Parents to Save Our Schools Page). In Mr. Zimbardo’s lecture he talks about how Americans firmly believe that the holocaust could never happen here in America since people would never tolerate it, and they would stand up against it. Yet, here in Clarkstown, NY, out of the little hamlet of Congers the messages of hate, the spread of fear mongering and the innuendo warnings against Hasidic Jews is occurring, and no residents are standing up against it. Why? I believe that it is because each incident just strikes below the tolerate set point of virtually all people. It is not that the racism and anti-Semitic messages and innuendos are not recognized, it is just that they are not sufficient to evoke action and outrage. They just cause one to shake their heads and think, that is wrong! You see my Clarkstown Neighbors, that is how such hatred and prejudice, such racism and anti-Semitism achieves its goal; by each time slightly pushing the set point of intolerance just a modicum further. Over time, we become unaware of where our intolerance set point lied just a few years earlier. If the repeated and continuing racism, prejudice and anti-Semitism is permitted to exist at any level, it will by its nature push peoples level of tolerance further and further, until the day comes where the public think nothing of a rule requiring particular individuals to garner a patch on their chest, or being stopped at a wooden barricades to present their ‘papers’. This my fellow Clarkstown neighbors is why you will recall hearing holocaust survivors and the multitude of historians saying “there must be NO tolerance whatsoever or this will occur again”.
This now brings me back to my opening message, if I do not say my piece about what occurred last Wednesday at the Clarkstown Board of Education meeting and what I am seeing going on in Congers, I will be unable to look at myself in the mirror.
On May 7, 2014 an individual stepped up to the open microphone during the public comment portion of the CCSD Board of Education meeting and identified himself as Pete Bradley; “Congers Resident” (Congers, NY) a man who also regularly identifies himself as representing the ‘Clarkstown Preservation Society’ (which does not exist as a formally registered organization according to the Rockland County business / organization registration records). Mr. Bradley started with references to older discussions on potential school closings and then commenced to read a letter from State Assemblyman Zebrowski to the town of Ramapo regarding ‘purported’ failures to enforce building code regulations. Mr. Bradley then selectively quotes items (purportedly) within the Zebrowski letter which can leave no doubt or question that his references relate to publically know building code issues involving some members of the Hasidic Jewish Community. Mr. Bradley then goes on in a rambling manner to say:
“this is something to consider when we are going to vacate two buildings, two elementary school buildings, so be careful what you do when you go vote”.
There is not possible way to avoid the reality of his speech which was to infer that if Congers residents vote for anyone other than his organizations endorsed candidates, that schools will be closed and sold to Hasidic Jews, who will build illegal boarding houses within them and over packed the school within Hasidic children. As I watched and listened to Pete Bradley’s horrifying display of prejudice, hatred and anti-Semitism I was honestly taken aback to the point of being in shock. The only thing missing from Mr. Bradley’s contemptible and self-humiliating performance was a white sheet, a swastika and podium for him to pound his fist upon.
I needed to know, was what I just witnessed a onetime foolish thing by a man who possibly had better intentions then he displayed? Sadly, that is not the case here. Mr. Pete Bradley was one of a very small minority of NYFD fire fighters that protested in front of the Brooklyn Federal Courthouse AGAINST anti-discrimination orders imposed on the FDNY. A Newsday reporter quoted Lt. Peter Bradley of upstate Congers as saying "The idea that the court can't figure out the degree of resentment this will breed is mind-boggling" - Newsday - October 02, 2012. Here to me, what Mr. Bradley is actually saying, is that ‘if he and his buddies at work can’t discriminate that it is going to make them resentful’. I can’t find words to express the hollowness that such a message creates in my soul. Without digging very hard, I learned about Mr. Bradley and his organization (The Clarkstown Preservation Society) being involved in a finger pointing battle with the Town Planning Board related to some form of harassment of a highly reputable contractor that was building a home in Congers, who just happened to be a highly religious Jewish gentleman. Mr. Bradley also protested against a Jewish day camp.
Throughout Clarkstown people are talking about the rumors of the School District wanting to sell the currently evacuated Congers Elementary School and that some ‘save Congers School activists’ were telling Congers residents that if the bond to fix the school failed, that the Congers Elementary building would be sold to ‘Hasidic Jews’. Then I heard a rumor which purportedly came out of Congers that a current candidate for the Board of Education who happens to be a very reputable, intelligent and polite man and who is Jewish, was secretly a ‘Hasidic Jew’ that was trying to get on the Board of Education to take education tax dollars away from our schools.
What I find most perplexing about all of this, is that Clarkstown has an average education level which far surpasses the national average, and in our own midst we have some shadowy and methodically planned and executed FEAR MONGERING. While I can only speculate as to who might be responsible for launching the ongoing fear campaign, which to me is clearly intended to scare and drive them to vote for the candidates that are favored by a small group of Congers Parents.
Clearly we have Mr. Pete Bradley who is on video tape with a fear mongering hate crime style message calling for people to ‘be careful of who we vote for’, when it is a well known and established fact that Mr. Bradley and his purported ‘The Clarkstown Preservation Society’ are vocal and active supporters of candidates that purportedly hold his values and support his agendas. Those candidates are as we all know, Mr. Phil Degaetano and Mr. Sean McGee. Now, I have absolutely been going after these candidates to debate me and face the public to be vetted. But, here I believe that you are good and decent men, husbands and fathers, and I ask you gentlemen not as a candidate for the BOE, but rather as a fellow husband, father and community member, to speak out against what has been going on and to urge you to not let this campaign go in a direction that will hurt our community. Just based upon what we have seen come flowing out of the mouth of Mr. Bradley at the May 7th Board of Education meeting, it would be appropriate for Mr. Degaetano and Mr. McGee to definitively and categorically separate themselves from Mr. Bradley and his organization.
I call upon the Board of Education to recognize that speaking at a Board of Education meeting is NOT a legal right provided to the public but, a privilege provided by the Board of Education for the purpose of obtaining constructive input and to obtain vital information which otherwise the BOE may not be knowledgeable of. Given these facts, I formally request that the BOE consult with its legal counsel and then impose a ban on Mr. Bradley attending live board meetings, and restrict his legal rights to observe to the live feed provided to the general public on the internet. To permit such conduct and messages to have a venue at a governmental meeting, and in particular one related to education which should serve to stamp out racism, hatred, fear mongering, anti-Semitism and all forms of prejudice whatsoever, is a categorical contradiction of our the purpose of our public education system and its charter.
I am further requesting that the BOE formally advise both the Town governmental authorities and the Clarkstown Police Department of the current goings on so they may be informed and observant of issues related to these occurrences.
Finally, to the residents of Clarkstown, please do not permit your / our tolerance set points to be swayed by failing to hold dearly onto a zero tolerance for hate and prejudice. If you hear the things which I have of late, or witness occurrences as is demonstrated in the video of Mr. Pet Bradley, please stand up and so NO! we / I will not tolerate that. I will not permit such to take root and if it exists I shall tear it and it’s out of the ground and not permit it go spread.
There can be NO tolerance for the conduct demonstrated by Mr. Bradley and no tolerance for the rumors which destroy us as people.
Respectfully and with no tolerance,
Candidate for the Clarkstown Board of Education