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Residents concerned over precariously rigged menorah display in Kensington

Kensington menorah display can electrocute you, some claim

The Brooklyn Paper
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Chanukah has become a festival of frights for residents of Windsor Terrace and Kensington.

A menorah placed on the Caton Avenue footbridge — which is rigged in such a haphazard way that an extension cord connecting to a nearby street light is left dangling above pedestrians’ heads — is an electrical accident waiting to happen, residents claim.

“There are literally hundreds of kids that walk by there every day,” said Scott Teplin, a Windsor Terrace resident who is afraid to walk under the electrical wire as he takes his 7-year-old son to school. “Logic tells me that doesn’t look safe, particularly when it’s wet out.”

Concerned residents say the rain over the last few days could have compromised the extension cord — which coils through a chain-link fence before connecting to the menorah — and could lead to someone getting electrocuted.

“I would be concerned about any problem with that extension cord and the possibility of it electrifying the fence which could shock and injure the children who run their hands on it,” said resident Jack Wallace. “This should be inspected and if necessary, rendered safe, but I don’t think it needs to be taken down.”

The Department of Transportation and the FDNY said they would inspect the display when this paper contacted the two agencies on Monday.

Yet the congregation responsible for the menorah says it’s been celebrating the festival of lights with the help of extension cords and street lamps for years — and claims to have a permit allowing members to tap into the city’s electrical grid during Chanukah. Attempts to confirm the existence of Kensington Chabad’s permit with the city were unsuccessful by our midnight deadline.

“We’ve been doing it for ten years, it’s an annual permit,” said Rabbi Zalman Levin, program director at the Kensington Chabad, who sent someone out to re-inspect the menorah after hearing about residents’ concerns. “It’s out of bringing the spirit of the festival of warmth and light to the people. Our electrician says it’s very safe and secure.”

Teplin disagrees.

“I don’t care if its religious or municipal or city signage, it’s dangerous,” said Teplin, who set off an incendiary debate on a local listserv when he posted his concerns about the menorah on Monday morning.

Some listserv scribes said Teplin’s concerns are completely misplaced — and believe he’s being insensitive.

“I am not sure what is so ‘very dangerous’ or ‘outrageous’ about this,” wrote one listserv commenter. “Would you feel the same way if it was a Christmas tree?”

But Teplin says his concerns have nothing to do with religion.

“It’s not about baiting religious groups or putting anyone down,” said Teplin, who is Jewish. “It’s purely a safety issue.”

The neighborhood was the setting of another holiday flare-up in 2009, when the now defunct Key Food let a local Chabad rabbi set up a menorah in front of the store, only to add a Christmas tree after neighborhood outcry about the menorah, eventually taking them both down to quell the minor flurry that ensued about religious icons and the use of public space.

Reach reporter Eli Rosenberg at erosenberg@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-2531. And follow him at twitter.com/emrosenberg.

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Reader Feedback

ty from pps says:
Safety aside... a quick lick of paint before displaying their menorah would have been too much effort?
Dec. 11, 2012, 12:50 pm
Rivet tipper from lower sunset park extension says:
I like that teplin is skeptical of those who seem to be insensitive to his right to skepticism. Others say its safe? Who are they to deny that it isn't NOT safe?!?!?

(see what I did there?)
Dec. 11, 2012, 6:24 pm
The Rookie from West Side says:
Kensington Chabad's electrician was not available for comment.
Dec. 11, 2012, 6:37 pm
Kebbeh from Buffalo! says:
Came down for a job (and see the Bills take it back from the Jets before new year!), staying at my bud's place and walked under that dangly wire thinking it was trouble. Figured its just a NYC thang. Have to agree it looks pretty sketchy. Why not LED lights instead? Safe, battery-powered, low energy!
BTW is kwanza a real thing or did you city slickers just make that up? At least we can all agree the Pats suck!!! Where can I get decent wings around here?
Dec. 11, 2012, 9:21 pm
nancy from coney says:
what happened to if u celebrate one holiday why not all the others cant just let 1 stand out ive been in that neigborhood for years didnt know there were religious jews there i thought they were farther down by 18th ave why would they put the menorah there where it can shock people thats dangerous
Dec. 11, 2012, 10:25 pm
Bob from Ditmas Park says:
Kwanzaa is as real or as unreal as any religion, philosophy, or politics.
Dec. 12, 2012, 3:04 am
Bob from Ditmas Park says:
Nancy, Chanukah is being celebrated NOW. Christmas will be celebrated two weeks from now. That's why a menorah is up NOW.
Dec. 12, 2012, 3:06 am
Rivet tipper from lower sunset park extension says:
Bob - seems like you are implying religion isn't real!?!? that is so insulting.
Dec. 12, 2012, 10:29 am
X.F. Pine from Brooklyn Heights says:
I've been electrocuted. It's no fun.
I'm glad citizens like teplin exist to point these things out.
Dec. 12, 2012, 10:49 am
nancy from coney says:
like i said i never see religious//hasidic people up living in that area and im there alot i have people living there also look around theres holiday decorations up everywhere cant honor one holiday and not all besides they snipped the wirea to the menorah thats was rigged up dangerously ever hear of battery packs or led lights duhhhh
Dec. 12, 2012, 8:37 pm
Rivet tipper from lower sunset park extension says:
@nancy - yeah...why don't they use battery packs? I thought they were known for being smart?
Dec. 13, 2012, 3:35 pm
Bee Elle from Kensington says:
Guys...I think, based on her typing skills alone and not her blatant anti-Semitism, that @Nancy is actually the woman that Rosie O'Donnell based her character on in "Riding The Bus With My Sister".

Happy Kwanzzmisakuh!
Dec. 19, 2012, 5:03 am

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