Permit Youth Sports Organizations to use NYC Parks Fields this Fall

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New York City's youth sports organizations provide recreational, athletic, and youth development programming that ensures the physical health, mental health, and social-emotional wellbeing of this city’s young people, children who represent every neighborhood and all socioeconomic backgrounds. In addition to helping young children maintain healthy lifestyles and learn important life skills, our programs also keep teens off the streets and engaged in positive activities with coaches, mentors, and positive role models. In the midst of a global pandemic, an economic depression, and a rise in the city’s gun violence, it has never been more important to support the health and well-being of the next generation.

However, for these programs to exist, they rely on fields and facilities operated by the New York City Department of Parks & Recreation. Without permits to these fields, these organizations will be unable to offer programming leaving a devastating hole in the lives of tens of thousands of children and young people.

It should come as no surprise then, that we were dismayed by the recent announcement that the NYC Parks and Recreation Department will not issue field permits for the start of the Fall Season. The email that was sent from NYC Parks staff to permit applicants cited “health and safety concerns” as the reason for this decision. Yet, with park fields still open to the public—most with little or no enforcement of social distancing, masks, or crowds— our programs provide the best way to ensure that young people can make safe, supervised use of the fields in a way that adheres to city, state, and CDC guidelines. Furthermore, it sends a startling message that the city will not permit outdoor youth recreational activities to return while bars, adult gyms, bowling alleys, museums, and perhaps even movie theaters can all reopen.  

With permits, these organizations and other permitted youth organizations can ensure the safe use of parks’ fields in a fashion that can be monitored and restricted to adhere to health guidelines. These organizations and others can support effective contact tracings if cases do arise from within the population, something that is not as easy with unorganized groups using the fields. And most crucially, these organizations and others will provide this city’s children and young people with vital opportunities for safe recreation, fitness, and athletics. By withholding field permits from our programs, the city is forcing its children, youth, and parents to choose between having no access to recreation or sports or playing on their own in situations that may be crowded and less safe.

As a result, we urge Mayor Bill de Blasio and NYC Parks Commissioner Mitchell Silver to immediately reverse course and provide field permits to youth organizations in New York City for the fall season. With many of these programs slated to begin in early September, and children and families desperate for opportunities to safely return to play, time is of the essence.

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