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Mayor condemns, but won’t comment on quitting, Slope Y after alleged civil-rights snafu • Brooklyn Paper

Mayor condemns, but won’t comment on quitting, Slope Y after alleged civil-rights snafu

Going green?: Mayor DeBlasio leaves the Prospect Park YMCA, where he regularly exercises as his motorcade idles outside.
Photo by Elizabeth Graham

Mayor DeBlasio refused to say if he will stop his daily cross-city commutes to work out at the Prospect Park YMCA after he blasted the gym’s staff for allegedly violating a transgender person’s civil rights.

A mayoral spokesman repeatedly dodged questions about whether Hizzoner will curtail his beloved pastime of traveling 11 miles from his Manhattan digs to the Ninth Street facility following the transmasculine nonbinary person’s report of being kicked out of its locker rooms, instead insisting this newspaper focus on steps the city will take to prevent future incidents.

“[NYC Commission on Human Rights] is going to train the staff [at the Prospect Park YMCA] to ensure it doesn’t happen again. That’s what’s important here. Thanks,” said Eric Phillips.

The Prospect Park YMCA came under fire after BuzzFeed reporter Branson LB, whose sex was assigned woman at birth, published a first-person account on Aug. 30 that described their “humiliation” after employees forced them out of two locker rooms on separate occasions last month.

Branson reported the incidents to the city’s Human Rights Commission, claiming their treatment violated the provision of the New York City Human Rights Law — which then Councilman DeBlasio voted for in 2002 — that entitles a gender non-conforming person to use facilities consistent with their identity.

And Phillips told a separate BuzzFeed reporter that what happened to Branson was “unacceptable” following initial news of the incidents, but again ignored queries about whether his boss would boycott the gym in the aftermath.

DeBlasio, a former Park Slope resident who represented the neighborhood in Council, has continued to patronize his one-time local gym — often under escort by police motorcade — since moving into Gracie Mansion in 2014, leading critics to blast his habit as wasting taxpayer money and unnecessarily polluting the air.

But the mayor insists on working out at the Prospect Park YMCA because it is where he feels most comfortable, his reps have said in the past.

“He is staying close to the community where he raised his family, and where he has lived for 20 years,” spokesman Wiley Norvell told this newspaper in 2015.

The same can’t be said for Branson, however, who wrote that although they will continue to patron the gym, they now feel out of place in all of its locker rooms.

“The truth is, I don’t feel comfortable in any of these spaces,” Branson wrote.

YMCA bigwigs are investigating Branson’s allegations of civil-rights abuse, according to a rep, who confirmed employees at the Prospect Park branch will be trained to accommodate the needs of transgender patrons.

“The YMCA deeply regrets that a member felt unwelcome at one of our branches,” said spokesman Erik Opsal. “The YMCA is also partnering with the NYC Commission on Human Rights to provide training to our staff as part of our ongoing commitment to being a safe, inclusive, and welcoming space for everyone we serve.”

Reach reporter Colin Mixson at cmixson@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-4505.

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