NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — A decision to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the riots in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, with a community festival is drawing fire.
As CBS2 Political Reporter Marcia Kramer reported, Brower Park – bounded by St. Mark’s Avenue, Kingston Avenue, Park Place and Brooklyn Avenue in Brooklyn – was a beehive of activity on Tuesday. People were playing basketball, and youngsters visiting from a Rockaway day camp were eating lunch.
But on Sunday, it will turn into a whole lot more. A community festival will be held to mark the 25th anniversary of the Crown Heights riots.
The festival promises fun for all ages, with food, music, rides, and even arts and crafts. But some said it is an insensitive way to recognize one of the worst race riots in the city’s history.
“My mother was disgusted. It’s just not fair to her. It’s true that I lost a brother, but she lost a child,” said Norman Rosenbaum. “And it is just totally inappropriate – inappropriate.”
PHOTO GALLERY: 1991 Crown Heights Riots
The rioting began Aug. 19 of that year after Gavin Cato, 7, who was black, was struck and killed by a driver belonging to the ultra-Orthodox Lubavitch community. A car from a Hasidic motorcade carrying the Lubavitcher rebbe, Menachem Schneerson, ran onto the sidewalk to the horror of onlookers.
Three hours later, a gang of angry black Crown Heights residents descended on and fatally stabbed Yankel Rosenbaum, Norman Rosenbaum’s brother, who was visiting from Australia.
Anger and fear ruled the night, as the twin tragedies led to mayhem. For more than two days, stores were looted, police cars were burned and bottles hurled.
“There were people who took advantage of a very tragic motor vehicle accident that caused the death of Gavin Cato,” Norman Rosenbaum said. “They perverted that and turned it into a modern day pogrom.”
Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, whose office is one of the sponsors of the One Crown Heights Festival, said it is all about bringing people together.
“I respect his right to be upset, but not only was his brother impacted by the riots in Crown Heights – the entire community,” Adams said, “and so one incident is not going to define how we continue to move forward.”
Adams asked Norman Rosenbaum to walk the festival with him to show unity and tolerance.
“We’re having a celebration of life, and we’re asking him to come out and walk with me so he can see that his brother did not die in vain,” Adams said. “It brought people together, and it’s something that he should celebrate as well.”
Norman Rosenbaum said he will not be walking with Adams.
“I think I would be contributing to the intellectual dishonesty,” Rosenbaum said. “This is not a time for cotton candy. This is not a time for rides and amusements. It wasn’t funny then, and it’s not funny now.”
The three days of rioting left nearly 200 people injured and about $1 million in property damage.
The festival is on Sunday at Brower Park, and it will be preceded by a commemoration ceremony at the Jewish Children’s Museum.