Jewish and Muslim Brooklyn residents are in for a treat this summer, as local City Councilman Chaim Deutsch has rented a government-owned beach so that he can host gender-segregated swim days for his constituents for two days during the summer months.
Deutsch is hoping to avoid a battle over the separation of religion and state at facilities which are funded by the public’s taxes, by hosting his special swims on days that the beach would otherwise be closed.
On Wednesday, June 6, the Brooklyn Democrat told The Post, “I have a lot of Orthodox Jewish and Muslim constituents in my district who have never been able to go to the beach before. They’ve never been able to smell the beach, to walk in the sand. Everyone should be able to enjoy the beach.”
The beach that Deutsch is raising private funds to pay for renting for two days is located in south Brooklyn, right next door to the very popular Manhattan Beach at Kingsborough Community College.
According to The Post, “Under his plan, June 29 would be set aside for men and boys from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., while July 27 would be reserved for women and girls during those hours. The beach would normally be closed on both Fridays, since the college doesn’t have summer classes that day. Deutsch said men and women of all faiths would be welcome on their respective days. He said he did not ask the city’s Human Rights Commission for guidance, but doesn’t expect any issues, and couldn’t say how a transgender individual would be treated.”
In a statement responding to information about Deutsch’s beach plan, commission spokesman Seth Hoy said, “The NYC Commission on Human Rights does not speculate on potential violations of the NYC Human Rights Law.”
However, the segregated swims were criticized by the New York Civil Liberties Union for being discriminatory.
NYCLU executive director Donna Lieberman said, “What chutzpah. People don’t have the right to impose gender discrimination on a city beach simply because it’s mandated by their religion. It is one thing for the city to provide reasonable accommodation for religious practice, and quite another to limit the public access of everybody else.”
A spokesman for Kingsborough said that to cover the cost lifeguards and other staff Deutsch is paying $400 per day. Spokesman Anthony Andrews said, “We want to be neighborly. This was a request made by the councilman . . . he’s been very supportive to us.”
On the topic of whether the beach has ever been rented by the college before for public or private events, Andrews said he was “unaware.”
By Rebeca Gold