Wednesday, December 9, 2009

The Battle for Williamsburg: Are the Hipsters Losing?

One of my hopes for this blog is that it will become a clearinghouse for all Hasid-on-hipster violence coming out of Williamsburg, eventually building to a coherent narrative about the undesirability of having hipster neighbors.

The best skirmish in this ongoing war came over the summer when a Greenpoint hipster alleged police brutality against Joel Witriol, New York's first Hasidic cop, who gave her a ticket for carrying her pet pug on the L train. Pets are only allowed on the subway if they are caged -- the rule isn't enforced with much zeal, but, in this case, the dog was making a special nuisance of itself by vomiting into the woman's totebag. A scuffle ensued when Witriol allegedly said "If you're going to act like a woman, I'm going to treat you like a woman" as he restrained and cuffed the girl for protesting the ticket, prompting a third-wave tirade from our pixie-coiffed protagonist. I remember reading at the time some linguist's speculation that Witriol was trying to say something more like, "If you act like a lady, I'll treat you like a lady," which ups the story's culture-clash quotient.

Alas, that incident did not provoke a highly choreographed street-rumble as I had hoped, but here's hoping this week's culture clash will. The city removed a fourteen-block bike lane in Williamsburg on Dec. 1, and three days later a band of hipsters repainted it at 3am with paint rollers and homemade stencils, only to be caught in the act by Hasidic vigilantes who turned them in to the police. Tell me that story doesn't have the makings!

Gothamist has the details, and, as is always the case with them, the jewels are in the comments:
"I'm pretty fed up with laws that support people's religious beliefs, whether it's abortion, gay marriage or bike lanes. Religion has got to get out of public policy."

"i'm confused about who we hate more in this story? hipsters, cops or religious fanatics? religious hipsters? religious cops? someone should track down a hipster cop, then i would know where to direct my hatred."
Maintaining a neighborhood's character is a serious thing, of course, and I hope the two sides can come to some understanding, but damn if I'm not glad to see a New York culture clash in which neither side is all that villainous.

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