More than half a century after Rosa Parks refused to sit in the back of a bus, a so-called "Jewish bus" in Brooklyn requires that all women sit in the back. Now there is a question of whether the bus operators can continue the discriminatory practice.
The New York World reports that the B110 bus operates between the neighborhoods of Williamsburg and Borough Park, which are both heavily populated with Orthodox and Hasidic Jews. Hasidic tradition bans physical contact between men and women, so it was decided that men would sit up front, women relegated to the back.
While the B110 looks like a regular New York City bus and is open to all members of the public, it is actually a private line.
The New York World explains:
The arrangement that the B110 operates under can only be described as unorthodox. It operates as a franchise, in which a private company, Private Transportation Corporation, pays the city for the right to provide a public service. Passengers pay their $2.50 fare not by MetroCard, but in dollar bills and coins. The city’s Franchise and Concession Review Committee defines a franchise on its website as “the right to occupy or to use the City’s inalienable property, such as streets or parks, for a public service, e.g., transportation.”
The newspaper asked a woman named Melissa Franchy to get on the bus and sit down in the front. Eventually one man told her to move to the back, that she was riding on a "private bus," a "Jewish bus."
When she asked why she had to move, Franchy said the man told her, “If God makes a rule, you don’t ask ‘Why make the rule?’”
God's rule or not, it may be against the laws of man.
“Discrimination in employment, housing and public accommodations in New York City is against the law,” said Betsy Herzog, a spokeswoman for the New York City Commission on Human Rights.
Transportation officials agree.
“This is a private company, but it is a public service,” said Seth Solomonow, a spokesman for the New York City Department of Transportation. “The company has to comply with all applicable laws.”
Solomonow said DOT would reach out to the bus company to discuss the matter.