The NYPD issued a cease-and-desist order to an Orthodox school in Brooklyn after neighbors reported it was operating in violation of city and state orders -- but the city's top cop says local commanders could have gone further.
Law enforcement officials estimate more than 100 children were inside the building Monday morning when police arrived. NYPD officers arrived to the building on Madison Street in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section sometime before 12 p.m.
At least two people in the neighborhood reported the school to city officials, law enforcement sources say. The reports described seeing children playing on the roof of the school building without masks.
NYPD officers told an adult at the building to close the school as it was in violation of state orders. No summonses were issued, sources say.
Mayor Bill de Blasio, in a NY1 interview Monday night, was pressed hard on that point and asked if the lack of any summonses indicated preferential treatment for Brooklyn's Orthodox Jewish community. De Blasio strongly denied that.
But NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea, in a NY1 interview Tuesday morning where he was also pressed on that question, was more nuanced about the decision.
"If the local commander had issued a summons yesterday I think that would have been appropriate as well," Shea said, noting that the department would be closely watching the location today to make sure no one returned.
"If a summons had been issued yesterday, I would have been fine with it," Shea said. “We empower our local precinct commanders to make decisions based on the facts, and I think he accomplished what the mission was, to make sure that people are socially distancing."
Chopper 4 arrived at the scene Monday around the noon hour, where dozens of children were seen exiting the building and boarding a bus. Some of the students were visibly wearing masks as they left the school.
Two neighbors witnessed described seeing roughly 50 teenagers and adults leaving the building.
The building has no exterior signs or visual indications of who runs the school. NBC New York has been unable to track down the building's listed property owner.
The mayor said in Monday's NY1 interview that no summonses being issued is in line with how he wants the NYPD to enforce social distancing measures.
"For all communities, the way we're doing it now is when NYPD shows up, people have to disperse immediately. If they don't disperse, they’re getting a summons. If they come back, they're getting a summons," de Blasio said. "I've had this conversation with leaders of a variety of communities. We're going to treat everyone the same, no gatherings, period."