The women of Metropolitan Pool
by Emily Gallagher
Feb 13, 2019 | 554 views | 0 0 comments | 17 17 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The Women's Issues Committee at Community Board 1 is a rare gem in the network of community boards.

Community Board 1 is one of the only community boards that has a Women's Issues Committee tasked to examine neighborhood issues that impact women.

These issues are wide in variety, and may be about transit, public safety, healthcare opportunities, public housing concerns and more. A major concern for our committee since it's beginning has been the Metropolitan Pool.

The Metropolitan Pool was nearly closed a few years ago, but a grassroots movement of local residents helped preserve it as a public facility. Much of this grassroots movement was done by women from the Hasidic community.

The pool has long provided them with the opportunity to exercise, clear their head and unwind with a few hours of swimming. To this group of women, the pool is invaluable. Additionally, it's important for all facilities like community pools to offer women-only hours, and it is not done enough.

With the power dynamics between men and women as they are, and with sexual harassment and bullying, it's become something that many women seek.

A modest space to swim and exercise is not something that only religious communities demand. Many women appreciate and enjoy it, because we sometimes suffer discomfort and harassment in mixed company.

The Metropolitan Pool cut the women-only swim hours in 2016. They had a myriad of excuses. The women fought back, but they received only a fraction of the hours back.

They lobbied politicians, the Parks Department, and community groups doggedly for support. They got support, but they never were offered a meeting or a hearing with all the stakeholders in the room.

Each group of stakeholders blamed the other. Local politicians signed letters and the hours have still not been restored.

I have learned a lot from the Metropolitan Pool Women's Swim advocates that I have met at the committee meetings. Like so much activism I talk about in this column, they forge on regardless of the support they are getting.

And there have been many people trying to thwart them, and they have always found another way. When they went to the media in the past, people used the space to criticize their community.

While it hurt them, they reached out to other women who appreciate privacy and modesty for support, because it is not just about their community but for all women. When they started a petition in the pool, pool employees told them they were "not allowed to solicit," so they started organizing in different ways.

They were told there was no lifeguard available to work with them, so a woman from the group trained to become a lifeguard herself.

The Metropolitan Pool women are really amazing. They have had all the roadblocks thrown at them, but they refuse to give up. For two years they have been begging for the original hours to be restored.

Why are we keeping it from them? For so many, this is the highlight of their week and the place they can go to find solace and community. I believe every resident deserves that, and it's our duty to make it accessible to all, regardless of cultural restrictions or preferences.
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