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Parks Department Won't Budge on Calls for More Women Hours At Met Pool

By Gwynne Hogan | March 29, 2017 1:28pm
 Local elected officials and a group of mostly Hasidic women are pushing for more women only hours.
Local elected officials and a group of mostly Hasidic women are pushing for more women only hours.
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DNAinfo/Gwynne Hogan

WILLIAMSBURG — The city Parks Department shot down a request from North Brooklyn elected officials for more women-only swim hours at the Metropolitan Recreation Center despite a growing cry from a group of mostly Hasidic women who say the pool is under-used.

"Our user data demonstrates that our policy of limited women's-only hours fairly accommodates the diversity of swimmers who use the pool," said Parks Department spokesman Sam Biederman, in response to a letter from Brooklyn politicians.

"After carefully considering input from the Human Rights Commission, elected representatives, and community members of all opinions, last summer NYC Parks designed a policy that allows access to all swimmers while respecting Metropolitan Pool community standards."

Orthodox Jewish women are forbidden by their religion to swim with men.

In response to a complaint last year regarding women-only hours, the city's Human Rights Commission conducted a lengthy review of the practice and found it in violation of the city's human rights law because it discriminated based on gender, but agreed to an exemption to allow the practice to continue.

In September, the Parks Department cut the women-only swim hours in half from eight to four hours.

The move confused women who use the pool and local elected officials advocating for them.

"If four acceptable, why isn't eight acceptable," wondered City Councilman Stephen Levin, one of four local elected officials who is calling for the full women-only hours back.

The cut hours went to an aerobics class, which members of the women-only group and swimmers pushing for more co-ed adult lap swim agree is underused. Both groups contest how the Parks Department has counted swimmers at the pool.

"It's empty on our days, we've been monitoring it every single day. The pool is empty on those days they took away from us,"  Esther Weiss, 51, an Hasidic woman who advocates woman-only swim, said on Tuesday.