Women ask NYC Parks Department not to cut female-only swimming hours

Marcy Oster

(JTA) — A petition signed by hundreds of women is asking the New York City Parks Department to reinstate hours of female-only swimming time at the indoor pool of a Brooklyn recreation center.

“We respectfully ask the Parks Department to restore at once the full hours that we previously had, to insure the health and well being of the community who have no other resource for recreation & health,” the petition, which began circulating on Sept. 14, states, according to DNAInfo.

The petition regarding the Metropolitan Recreation Center in the Williamsburg section, which has a large population of haredi Orthodox Jews, has yet to be submitted, the news website reported.

The Parks Department announced earlier this month that it would cut the hours of female-only swimming in half from two hours a day four days a week to two hours a day, two days a week. The reduction in hours begins on Oct. 1.

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According to a strict interpretation of Jewish law, Jewish women may not swim with men due to modesty reasons. Many of the women who use the single-sex hours are not religious or Jewish, however.

The Parks Department had canceled the women-only hours in May when an anonymous complaint was filed with the city’s Commission on Human Rights shortly after the revision of the gender discrimination policy by the city Commission on Human Rights.

The decision was put on hold following objections by local politicians and activists, including Assemblyman Dov Hikind, an Orthodox politician from nearby Borough Park.

The controversy inspired a strongly worded editorial in The New York Times asserting that the special hours were unconstitutional and against the principals of fairness and equal access. The editorial itself drew a backlash from some in the Jewish community, who accused the Times of being selective in applying its commitment to pluralism.

In July, the special hours, which had been in effect since the 1990s without complaint, were reinstated but reduced.

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