Swimming rights of way: The women’s swim at Metropolitan Pool

The NYC Parks Department decided to reduce the hours of the women’s swim to 4 hours starting October 10th.

For years, the Metropolitan Pool, a NYC Parks Department recreation center set in a historical building on the corner of Metropolitan and Bedford Avenues, has offered a Women’s Swim for 8 hours per week. Intended to serve all women, the policy needed to be altered slightly to accommodate those who were Hasidic. There were two things required to make all comfortable: a female lifeguard and for the window to the pool to be covered while they swam. For the past 15 years things went swimmingly. Then this past summer an anonymous complaint was made to the Human Rights Commission stating unfair accommodation was being made to a religious group. The NYC Parks Department decided to reduce the hours of the women’s swim to 4 hours starting October 10th.

The Women’s Issue and the Park’s Committees of Community Board 1 had been working on concerns women in the community had about not receiving fair equitable recreation support. The Women’s Issues Committee met with about twenty-five of the women who would lose time for the Women’s Swim at Metropolitan Pool. These women expressed that no one met with them before making the decision to cut the hours they could swim. They wanted to state their case. That it was distressing to the women (who had a commonality about tradition but varied in religion and ethnicity) they would be losing hours from a swim that was essential to their well being. The women testified they needed women only as their values influenced their wish not to swim or compete with men.

This exchange brought forth the call for a moratorium on the decision to reduce the Women’s Swim hour so both sides could have the opportunity to meet and try to work out their differences toward a win-win result. Community Board 1 unanimously approved this in their September 19th meeting.

Plans for the meeting of the two sides were developed with the hope that community people having a problem could come up with their own solutions while working face to face without resorting to remote institutions. In the first half of the meeting each speaker would be given 2 minutes to state their case for or against. The second half was for an open dialogue committed to creating a consensus on entire issue of women’s-swim-time.

Those in the community against allowing this Women’s Swim argue that it’s city owned property and therefore shouldn’t have segregated restrictions of any kind. One of the arguments for the Women’s Swim is the right to privacy.

As the situation stands now, the Women’s Swim has gone down to four hours per week. Two hours on Wednesday mornings from 9am–11am for adults and seniors and on Sunday afternoons from 2:45pm–4:45pm for children, teens, and adults. The management wouldn’t comment as to whether there was a possibility the hours would be extended again. NYC Parks press office stated, “Separate-gender swimming hours remain in effect at Metropolitan Pool”. On visiting the Metropolitan Pool during the Sunday Women and Children’s Swim – it sounded quite busy. A curtain was drawn across to cover the windows to the pool.

The Metropolitan Pool is located on 261 Bedford Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11211. View the pool’s schedule for more information.

Author: The Greenline

Your monthly source for North Brooklyn community news covering Williamsburg, Greenpoint and Bushwick. Currently 13,000 copies are distributed throughout the community free of charge.

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