NYC to pay $1.1 million to Chassidim

NEW YORK — Calling it "one of the saddest chapters" in the history of New York, Mayor Rudolph Giuliani offered an apology to the residents of Brooklyn's Crown Heights over the weekend, and the city agreed to pay $1.1 million to settle the civil suit in which Chassidim charged the city with failing to protect them during the August 1991 race riots.

"I apologize to the citizens of Crown Heights, to the Rosenbaum family and to all of the people that were affected by this," Giuliani said at a news conference.

The statement continued, "In the spirit of conciliation, the City of New York accepts responsibility for the mistakes that were made in August 1991, and apologizes to the residents of Crown Heights.

"The City of New York hereby reaffirms that in the future it will not allow several days of rioting without adequate response."

The apology came as part of a settlement in which the city agreed to pay a total of $1.1 million to the 91 plaintiffs involved in a class-action lawsuit that had been filed after the melee in August 1991. The rioting began after a car driven by a Jew accidentally struck and killed a young black boy.

The lead attorney for the plaintiffs declined to specify how they would divide up those funds.

The lawsuit was brought by the family of Yankel Rosenbaum, a yeshiva student from Australia who was fatally stabbed on the first night of the riots, as well as several people who were injured and three Jewish institutions that suffered property damage.

Giuliani's apology came two days after Lemrick Nelson, 22, was sentenced to the maximum 19-1/2 years in prison after his conviction on federal civil rights charges in the death of Rosenbaum.

The settlement and apology are "warranted and appropriate," said Michael Miller, executive vice president of the New York Jewish Community Relations Council.

To the Jews of Crown Heights, the settlement and apology "mean, finally, official recognition for the horrible, anti-Semitic violence to which they were subjected" during the riots, said Franklyn Snitow, the class-action suit's lead attorney, who negotiated the settlement with the city.