Controversy has erupted around a Borough Park -Williamsburg bus route, where reporters have discovered that women are directed to sit in the back like pre-Civil Rights minorities.
On the B110 bus, which runs through some of the city’s most Orthodox Jewish neighborhoods, men and women don’t sit next to each other. Instead, women are ushered to the back by Jewish men, a policy that even some bus drivers have taken to enforcing, according to The New York World. The practice is meant to keep within Hasidic tradition, which dictates that men and women should avoid physical contact.
“It’s such a normal thing for us that women and men are separate,” said Gitty Green in a New York Times article. “Most of the ladies go to the back.”
The problem is, it’s a bus operated with city funding – though they’re privately-owned and contracted out.
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 agreement goes back to at least 1973, and last year the franchise paid the city $22,814 to operate the route, according to the New York City Department of Transportation. According to the news site Vos Iz Neias?, which serves the Orthodox Jewish community in New York City and elsewhere, the bus company has a board of consulting rabbis, which decreed that male passengers should ride in the front of the bus and female passengers in the back.
According to JTA, the New York City Department of Transportation is threatening to terminate their contract with the bus company, citing violation of franchise agreements, and has issued a letter requesting information to the owners of Private Transportation Corporation. A follow-up in The New York World states that the New York City Commission on Human Rights is also investigating.