Options for childcare are slowly expanding for working parents in New York City, as Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that day camps that depend on city parks will be allowed to operate this summer.
“Our parks have been such a crucial part of the equation, keeping people going, keeping our spirits up, giving people a chance to get some exercise,” de Blasio said at his press briefing on Wednesday. “Well, now it's time for summer camps to begin again. And the Parks Department is going to work with private and nonprofit camps to find space in our parks so they can come back and provide support to kids.”
Governor Andrew Cuomo has announced the state’s day camps could open as early as June 29th with a slew of health and safety precautions. But de Blasio, despite being asked for weeks if day camps would open, had not made any announcements about the fate of the many camps that depend on city parks until Wednesday.
All day camps, whether private or publicly funded, must follow the state Department of Health and city guidelines -- and any camps that use the city parks will need special events permits from the Parks Department, which de Blasio promised will be processed rapidly. Under normal circumstances, it typically takes 21 to 30 days takes to have a special events permit approved.
“We're going to be doing that literally in the next few days to get them up and running so they can have, you know, a different kind of programming than they might have done if they had a lot of indoor space, but they're going to make it work and we're going to make it work with them to give our kids a great outdoor experience,” de Blasio said.
Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer hailed the announcement, saying the city heeded the request she made earlier this month.
“When the Parks Department did not approve applications for organized activities within city parks, depriving children of working families of access to organized outdoor activities, parents who could afford to send their children to camps outside the city did so,” she said.
Brewer added that the city needs to restore funding for city-run camps, which had their budgets cut by de Blasio in April because of budget shortfalls due to the coronavirus. Youth advocates are calling on the New York City Council to restore funding for free summer programs like Schools Out NYC (SONYC), COMPASS NYC, and Beacon that are run by the city Department of Youth and Community Development and serve some 100,000 kids.
“While the city's review of 350 summer camps parks permits is a major step in making our public parks accessible to the young people who need it most, we still need funding for the summer camps and the Summer Youth Employment Program in the budget,” Brewer said. “The summer season must remain equitable, safe, and enriching for all families and their children.”
Sleepaway camps have been canceled this year by Cuomo and the state Health Commissioner Howard Zucker, citing concerns about the coronavirus pandemic and having children in congregate settings. Cuomo is now being sued by a group of parents and the Association of Jewish Camp Operators over the closure.