Monday, March 31, 2014
An allegedly gender-segregated park run by a Hasidic enclave in Orange County will now be subject to strict NYCLU and ACLU oversight, thanks to a lawsuit that was settled this week.
Last year, both the NYCLU and ACLU sued Satmar-run village Kiryas Joel, an enclave in Monroe, NY, claiming that the village had been requiring men and women to use separate equipment and paths in a 283-acre public park built in April. The park was reportedly built using "special financing" obtained by the village's mayor, and the constitutional watchdog groups had unsuccessfully requested financial documents through the Freedom of Information Act in hopes of tracking the park's funds, before filing a suit. "Public parks cannot segregate based on sex any more than they can on race or national origin,” NYCLU Executive Director Donna Lieberman said in a statement in December. “New Yorkers have every right to know if this is happening here and if tax dollars are supporting something so blatantly unlawful."
Though the village's legal representation, Donald Nichol, maintained last week that Kiryas Joel "does not have any policy of directing, endorsing, or enforcing illegal segregation on the basis of sex in public places or programs," the village has agreed to a settlement [pdf] allowing the ACLU and NYCLU to visit the park twice each summer for the next three summers, to ensure no segregation is enforced. In addition, the groups reported that signage in the park indicating that certain areas were men-only and women-only has been removed.
When the lawsuit was first filed in December, Council Member David Greenfield, who represents Brooklyn neighborhoods Borough Park, Midwood and Bensonhurst, criticized the NYCLU and ACLU for "picking on these Hasidic Jews," arguing that they should be permitted to police their park without "fear of government intrusion."
The village has been the subject of recent news reports, after announcing a proposal to annex 507 acres of land currently owned by Monroe. Many Monroe residents oppose this plan, arguing that the heavily government-subsidized village is "sucking the county bone dry," according to Westchester News 12.
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