Borough Park Assemblyman Dov Hikind today demanded continued gender segregation at a public swimming pool to comply with Orthodox Jewish customs, and despite some concern from the Human Rights Commission, the city relented.
The brouhaha erupted after Hikind received numerous complaints from Hasidic Jews living in Williamsburg that the local Metropolitan Pool and Recreation Center, 261 Bedford Avenue, would discontinue the separate swimming hours program, which allowed women to swim privately from 9:15 – 10:45 a.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays effective June 11.
The move was apparently made when the City’s Human Rights Commission notified the Parks Department that the separate gender times at the pool bordered on a civil rights violation regarding use of a public asset – a notice that infuriated Hikind.
“What happened to being culturally sensitive? I thought we were in the midst of a ‘Progressive Era,’ where we do everything we can to be more accepting of cultural differences,” said Hikind, noting that as a sign of modesty, many throughout the Jewish community abide by a restriction that men and women swim separately.
“In no way is this program for separate gender swimming meant to be discriminatory. Anyone, regardless of their race or religion, is more than welcome to take advantage of the facility’s services. We call upon the City and the Parks Department to reverse this decision and ensure the continuation of this program.”
Upon receiving the unwanted publicity concerning a key constituency of Mayor Bill de Blasio, the Parks Department appeared to do an about-face on the plan, saying the summer schedule was posted in error.
“No rule change has taken place. Separate-gender swimming hours remain in effect at Metropolitan Pool,” said a Parks Department spokesperson.