Dismayed by the decision from the Parks Department not to issue field permits for the fall, a youth organization launched a petition Thursday calling for the city to reverse its course.
With parks still open to the public, most with little or no enforcement of social distancing, masks, or crowd control, South Bronx United, a youth soccer program, feels if the fields are open it can comply with city, state and CDC guidelines.
South Bronx United is a 501c3 nonprofit, youth development organization that uses soccer to engage immigrant and first-generation youth and support the south Bronx. It serves more than 1,000 boys and girls aged 4 to 19, combining recreational and competitive youth soccer with academic enrichment, college prep, mentoring, health and wellness promotion, leadership development, immigration legal services and other individual and family supports.
Parks staff sent an email to permit applicants citing “health and safety concerns” as the reason to shutter the fields.
“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 petition stated. “However, for these programs to exist, they rely on fields and facilities operated by the New York City Department of Parks and 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.”
In its first day the petition earned 330 signatures. Elmer Campos is among those who signed.
“Not issuing field permits for the fall is a very poor decision because all fields are packed with people running unorganized leagues, tournaments, pickup games and even gym people are out there doing workout sessions,” Campos said. “How is it possible that the city will open indoor gyms, but Parks Department won’t issues outdoors field permits? It doesn’t make sense!
Young people need sports to be physically and mentally healthy. Not having field permits this fall when we are below .4 percent of COVID-19 cases, just doesn’t add up.”
Paul Kontonis shared Campos’ sentiments.
“The soccer clubs in the NYC area are created safe environments for their kids to get exercise, socialize and play the game they love,” Kontonis said. “They need to be given the ability to do this for their community with field permits. This is the best and safest way. In addition, the lack of permits is preventing many clubs from functioning and providing services to their community and livelihoods for the administrators and coaching staff they employ. This is a health, social and economic situation that can be improved drastically with the issuance of field permits.”