WILLIAMSBURG — North Brooklyn politicians are calling for the full restoration of the controversial women-only swim hours, which overwhelmingly cater to the neighborhood's Orthodox Jewish population, who for religious reasons can't use the pool during other hours.
In a letter sent to Parks Department Commissioner Mitchell Silver Tuesday, State Sen. Martin Dilan, Assemblyman Joseph Lentol, City Councilman Stephen Levin and Antonio Reynoso called on the city to restore the eight hours of women-only swim, which had been slashed to down to four, following an inquiry by the city's human right commission about whether or not the practice violated local human rights law.
"For the sake of women, physical wellbeing, and history, we request the original hours be restored," the politicians said in the letter.
The politicians point out that around three decades back, the city was pushing to demolish the pool, but neighborhood residents, many of whom used the all-women swim hours, mobilized to save it.
'We request that the Parks Department request an exemption, based on historical precedent of nearly 30 years, to restore the original eight hours of women’s swim time," the letter states. "Ever since the neighborhood rallied to save the pool, the women’s swim hours have enjoyed overwhelming support from the community."
Since their hours were cut back, an act which they called an "insult to women who still want to hang onto the right morals," Orthodox women and other women who use the pool have been meeting with the local community board, writing elected and city officials, and pushing for restoration.
"It's empty on our days, we've been monitoring it every single day. We don't want to take anything from anyone. The pool is empty on those days they took away from us," said Esther Weiss, 51, an avid swimmer at the pool, who said it helps her lower back pain. "It's anti-Semitic, it's anti-women."
While women swimmers argue they need the pool for their health, a group of "secular swimmers" at the pool pushed back saying that Orthodox women were getting special treatment.
Last summer, a fiery public debate over the use of public space and whether a religious group with political sway should get to call the shots there gained national attention.
Catherine Fukushima, a swimmer at the pool who's advocated on behalf of secular swimmers there, said she supports the current Parks Department policy which has four hours of women's swim.
"[We] look forward to working with all parties to improve the pool schedule to optimize usage of the facility," she said.
The Parks Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Read the documents for yourself.