In Lakewood, New Jersey, the Asbury Park Press
- The summer may be winding down, but a dispute over single-sex swim hours at a local age-restricted community is just heating up.
Earlier this summer, two homeowners at A Country Place, Marie Curto and Steve Lusardi, were each issued a $50 fine for violating the condominium association’s revised pool policy.
Implemented in deference to the religious sensitivities of Orthodox Jewish residents, who now constitute a majority in the 376-unit complex, the policy restricts the times when men and women may swim together to two hours per day, Sunday through Friday. Jewish law prohibits mixed-gender swimming.
Now Curto and Lusardi and his wife, Diana, have filed a lawsuit against the condominium association in state Superior Court seeking to invalidate the policy and the fines. The complaint alleges that the pool policy violates the anti-discrimination provisions of the federal Fair Housing Act and the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination.
The association’s attorney, Angela Maione Costigan of Costigan & Costigan, Moorestown, declined to comment on the litigation.
Jose D. Roman of Powell & Roman, Old Bridge, is representing Curto and the Lusardis.
In his brief, Roman characterized the pool policy as "the institution of religious law by a secular governing body (the Board) of a secular entity (the Association) in a secular community (A Country Place)."
A hearing is set for Nov. 4 in Toms River.
Steve Lusardi, a 69-year-old retired postman, says access to an outdoor pool was one of the chief reasons he moved to A Country Place. The pool provides a means of physical therapy for his wife, Diana, 70, who is recovering from a pair of strokes.
The couple’s $215 monthly maintenance fee goes in part to pay for the upkeep of the pool.
As the demographics of the community have changed, the pool’s policy has been revised to provide 11 hours of single-sex swim time on most days. The remaining two hours that the pool is open, from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m., are set aside for mixed-gender swimming.
There is open swimming all day Saturday, when swimming is forbidden by the dictates of the Jewish Sabbath.
In a letter to Lusardi, the association’s board of directors defended the arrangement as more than fair.
“ACP is a private association and as per counsel we are well within our rights to serve the vast majority of the community,” the letter stated. “You are inconsiderate of the majority and wish for minority rule. That is not our community.”
The Lusardis claim they have been “harassed, intimidated and have received threats of violence within their community due to their complaints regarding the pool,” according to the complaint, which seeks compensatory and punitive damages.
However the case is resolved, the Lusardis might not be around to enjoy the pool next summer. The couple listed their home for sale on Aug. 15.
For more, see Lakewood condo owners sue over single-sex pool (A group of non-Orthodox Jewish residents of A Country Place allege that limiting mixed-gender swim times is discriminatory, but the condo association's board contends it's the will of the majority)