A glimpse into the libertarian world of car-train parades
COLUMN BY TONI SOWA
Wednesday, December 21, between the hours of 6 and 7 p.m., approximately 70 motor vehicles, adorned with 2 foot menorahs, and loud speakers blaring “Happy Chanukah” began a caravan route from Route 306, Monsey, down New Hempstead Road into New City, travelled south on Route 304, and up the entire Nanuet Route 59 shopping district to ultimately end in a chaotic traffic mess at Spring Valley Marketplace shoppers parking lot.
Organized by Chabad Lubavitch of Rockland, 315 North Main Street, New City this type of Chanukah Parade started 30 years ago in Brooklyn, NY, with automobiles, and now includes “Mitzvah Tanks” RVs in the mix. The parade and has steadily grown larger in Rockland County, with the rise of the Hasidic and Orthodox community. According to Lt. Donaldson of Clarkstown, who is in charge of the Auxiliary Police squad, he has no input as to the size, time, frequency or the route of the parade.
All the other celebration parades in Rockland, including St. Patrick’s, Columbus, Halloween, Puerto Rican Day, India Day, Volunteer Fireman’s, Fourth of July, Gay Pride, and Memorial Day, all have to get permits and police approval in the process. According to Supervisor Gromack’s office, what differentiates this Chanukah Parade from being classified an official parade is there is no closure of streets and the vehicles are constantly moving in regular traffic patterns. The loud speakers have not gotten any complaints so they are within the community’s noise laws.
Any group can use its constitutional right to have a procession and call it a parade, and does not need any approvals or permits, Gromack’s office said.
As far as the cost to the police, Lt. Donaldson arranges his time working the parade to fall within his normal week, so as not to create overtime costs. He was not able to give any other financial figures or confirm that other police involved do the same. All it took for Chabad to get police traffic and escort assistance was to make a phone call to both Police Departments of Ramapo and Clarkstown, informing them of the plans. If they don’t get the assistance, it goes forward without it.
Think about this, it can be any type of road vehicle or truck, and there is no restriction on the amount of times it can be done. Without community complaints it’s an “open road.” Gromack’s office said it’s not a loophole, it’s simply an activity not covered or restricted by any law.
Gromack’s office spokesperson said to think of the Chanukah Parade, in legal terms, similar to how one would view a funeral procession. The towns do not require permits for large funerals, but they may use the police for traffic. However, funeral processions are traditionally held during the daylight hours, posing less of a safety issue do use loud speakers, and are traditionally a community’s last way of showing respect for the death of a member.
What do you make of the comparison of the Chanukah parade, held during rush hour, on the darkest night of the year, with loud speakers, to a funeral procession?
What are are the towns liabilities if this parade should cause a death or injury? The town has used resources to provided assistance to an unofficial parade which causes traffic tie-ups.
On December 21, I witnessed at least one “parade” car break a serious traffic rule under, even police traffic control. He was separated from the rest of his group by unparticipating traffic and was forced to stop at a red light, Inpatient, excited or just plan out of touch; he made the irresponsible decision to blow though that traffic light at Grandview and Route 59, Nanuet, opposite the NYS Thruway entrance, and almost broadsided another vehicle. The other driver was able to avoid the accident.
Were all the parade driver’s licensed with insurance?
Is it appropriate to use town resources for these types of private actions? Are we all sued if there is an accident?
What about the safety of the public at large, the consideration for the other holiday shoppers, business owners, the regular taxpaying commuters? When is a parade a parade? This may seem like a one hour headache, but it has the potential to be a real migraine. Look at what other cities around the country have to spend with this “not a parade” issue. It is only a matter of time before other groups use this “not a loophole.” Are we ready Rockland?