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I make my way south, back to 16th Avenue, Borough Park's main thoroughfare, where there are synagogues every few blocks, Kosher bakeries, dress shops, music stores and yeshivas. And next to the Daily News boxes on the corners are Hamodia (a "Torah-true" paper founded 100 years ago in Eastern Europe). It has Sudoku and Torah trivia in the back pages. The community not only has its own newspaper but its own unarmed, NYPD-sanctioned safety patrol, the Shomrim. Borough Park even has its own volunteer ambulance team, the Hatzolah.
In the Nosh-A-Bagel on 58th Street, William Mandel, 29 and a lifetime resident of the neighborhood, tells me that Borough Park probably has the lowest crime rates in New York City. And also some of the most expensive housing. The neighborhood's been a Hasidic stronghold for the past 40 years, and before that, it was Italian. There are still a few Italians, Mandel says, and the Hasidim wish them no ill will.
"It just happens to be we stick together," he says.
Mandel deals with property rentals and is married, with two children. When I ask him how he'd feel if his kids moved out of the neighborhood, he shrugs his shoulders.
"Whatever makes them happy. There are plenty of Hasidic communities in Brooklyn," Mandel says.
"But what if they don't live in a Hasidic community?"
Mandel, still grinning, shakes his head.
"Whatever makes them happy," he repeats. "But right now they're small kids and I don't have to worry about that."
And for another few years, anyway, Borough Park doesn't have to worry about the world outside its borders.
It should also be noted that this story was assigned to Ms. Brownstone, who did the best she could with the assignment. Her thoughts are below.
This piece has been criticized, and rightly so. While I never intended anything malicious by it (the only person I thought I had poked fun at was myself), I realize now that the piece has been read as underreported, shallow, reactionary and, at worst, anti-Semitic. Sadly, that was the opposite of my intent. I had thought that being so hyperbolic about fear of the place would actually work against these ideas, that being so ridiculously paranoid about a family-oriented neighborhood like Borough Park would end up being funny, would point out the fault in that way of thinking. But it missed the irony mark. I apologize for any negativity this piece may have communicated instead.