A City Council Member blasted the NYCLU and ACLU's lawsuit against Hasidic village Kiryas Joel over an allegedly gender-segregated park, arguing the suit is "offensive" and hinting that the civil rights groups are "picking on these Hasidic Jews."

Yeshiva World News reported that Council Member David Greenfield, who represents Brooklyn neighborhoods Borough Park, Midwood and Bensonhurst, criticized the lawsuit on his weekly radio show last night, claiming that the park in question was built using private funds and that there's no reason to go after it. "It is important that we get the facts straight. NYCLU and ACLU have a fair argument—sort of a legal precedent—that government should not be paying for a gender-segregated park on government park land," he said. "Where they are wrong, is that the village attorney clearly said, 'The village has no gender-segregated ‘public’ park,' because it’s indeed a private park with private funds on private property."

The park in question takes up 283 acres, and, according to the NYCLU and ACLU, it's a public park that boasts separate sections for men and women. The groups are trying to obtain financial documents pertaining to the park; they were denied a Freedom of Information Act request in August. "Public parks cannot segregate based on sex any more than they can on race or national origin,” NYCLU Executive Director Donna Lieberman said earlier this week. “New Yorkers have every right to know if this is happening here and if tax dollars are supporting something so blatantly unlawful."

But Greenfield hinted on his show yesterday that he believes the NYCLU and ACLU may be taking a more discriminatory tact with their lawsuit. "It almost seems they are picking on these Hasidic Jews in Kiryas Joel," he said, adding that "People are entitled to live their lives in peace," and that the NYCLU and ACLU "should be helping people, not hurting people."

We contacted Greenfield and received the following statement:

One of the great things about our country is the freedom that people of all cultures and backgrounds can enjoy without fear of government intrusion. I was told that the park in Kiryas Joel was funded entirely by private donations and therefore is a private park. The reality is that many Hasidim, especially teenagers, would not play in a park unless there are separate areas for boys and girls due to their religious beliefs. While that would not be acceptable at a public park, it's certainly acceptable to have a private park to accommodate this strictly religious community. In fact, Kiryas Joel is almost exclusively Hasidic and those Hasidim have been barred from playing in neighboring playgrounds, which is why they created their own park. I believe that this misguided effort on the part of the ACLU is an unnecessary attack on the religious lifestyle of the Hasidic community and a waste of the ACLU's resources that could be used to help members of our society who have actually been treated unfairly.

Brandon Mendelson, a longtime resident of the town of Monroe in which Kiryas Joel is located, tells us the village residents have been at odds with the outside community for years, and that it's not uncommon for Kiryas Joel critics to be accused of prejudice by the village leadership. "The pattern here time and time again is that you can't have a conversation...because the response here is, 'We don't want to here it. You're being Anti-Semitic,'" Mendelson, who is Jewish, said. "It's a clear pattern of behavior from village leadership that's causing a lot of bad feelings in the communities."