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City continues female-only swimming at public pools

The doors are open at the Metropolitan Pool

The doors are open at the Metropolitan Pool in the Williamsburg neighborhood in the Brooklyn, Monday, June 6, 2016. Credit: AP / Rachelle Blidner

Female-only hours will continue at two public swimming pools in Brooklyn, the de Blasio administration said Wednesday, an exception to the city law ordinarily barring gender discrimination.

The decision, by human rights chairwoman Carmelyn Malalis, is a reversal of a position the agency took earlier this year, when segregated swimming was ruled unlawful and the practice ended. It was soon reinstated after an outcry by local Orthodox Jews whose women and girls patronize the pools.

Starting in the fall, the two pools will decrease female-only hours: at the Metropolitan Pool in Williamsburg, Wednesdays from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and Sundays from 2:45 p.m. to 4:45 p.m.; and at the St. John’s Recreation Center in Crown Heights, Tuesdays from 7:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. The St. John’s center will eliminate male-only swimming.

The city might expand female-only sessions if pool members gather at least 200 signatures, the Parks Department said.

Malalis’ ruling stressed city rules: that anyone who identifies as female, including a transgender person, must be admitted. No one may ask for proof.

Parks spokesman Sam Biederman called Malalis’ decision a matter of “safe and fair access at public facilities,” adding: “Women-only swimming hours provide an important accommodation to New Yorkers who may feel more secure and comfortable in a single-sex environment.”

But attorney Erin Beth Harrist of the New York Civil Liberties Union, is considering a legal challenge and called the ruling “a slippery slope” that “undermines the whole purpose of the human rights law.”

She added: “What is really happening here is a creation of a religious exception for the Hasidic Jewish community.”

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