Nearly 100 years young, the Summer Play Streets program sponsored by the Police Athletic League (PAL) continues to make its mark throughout the five boroughs, including right here in Sunset Park.
On July 9, the Play Street on 61st Street between Fourth and Fifth Avenue opened for fun. The program runs from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, accepting children ages six to 16.
Nikia Cole, who has been with PAL for three years, and fellow PAL worker Aja Colon, who has been involved for two years, have set a goal of 200 kids to visit their Play Street this summer. Thirty kids, on average, are on the block each day.
The parents they love it, having their children not in school but doing something throughout the day, nine to five. said Cole.
While mornings tend to be slow, by the afternoon volunteers, workers, and kids are taking part in hula hooping, jump rope, volleyball, playing cards, arts and crafts, face painting, or playing at the popular knock hockey table.
Fourteen-year-old Steven used to live on 61st Street and also enjoyed the Play Street as a child. Now living in the Bronx, Steven decided to register for the Summer Youth Employment Program, requesting an assignment on his old block and luckily was picked from the lottery.
When I was a kid I would play with my friends and now I work here and everyone looks up to me and they think its all fun, but in reality you need to watch for the kids and make sure they dont get hurt, but it is fun. said Steven.
At the end of each summer, PAL takes the kids on a trip on what they call borough day. All Brooklyn participants meet at Parade Grounds Playground to play games, engage in rock climbing, enjoy food and take part in different contests as well.
Several families during these economic hard times cannot afford to send their children to a summer day camp. This is their opportunity to participate in a totally free program. said Richard Guevara, director of field operations for PAL.
And, its not just the kids who benefit. I think its always a valuable experience to watch over kids, because they teach you as much as you teach them. said Colon.
Summer Play Streets will continue until August 24 with the exception of no Play Street on Friday July 27.