The Police Athletic League (PAL) opened its annual summer Playstreet on 61st Street on Monday, July 6 to give children a place to stretch their muscles and learn for the next seven weeks.
The Playstreet, between Fourth and Fifth Avenues, is a street in which traffic is blocked off so children can congregate for games, arts and crafts, and lessons at no cost as an alternative to summer camps.
“[From 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.], we just help kids,” said Darius Hawkins, one of the rec specialists who supervises the kids and plays games with them. “[We] help them with their homework if they have summer school.”
About 20 local children attended the 61st Street’s 2015 summer opening. According to Hawkins, it is usually more packed, but more children file in as the summer progresses and once the PAL brings out more equipment for team sports.
“I really like working with younger kids,” said Gordon Weeks, who helped supervise as part of the Summer Youth Employment Program. “I think they’re really fun. They can be really intelligent.”
According to Nyasia Cole, 61st Street Playstreet field supervisor, each week PAL staff members promote an educational theme for the kids to learn, such as health and fitness and dealing with bullies.
“After they’ve played [and] they’re calmed down, they’ll sit them down and talk to them about the week’s theme,” Cole said. She said that while not every child takes in the lessons, the PAL’s goal is to ensure each one at least walks away cognizant of the themes when the summer ends.
The 40 Playstreets throughout the city opened July 6, including eight other ones in Brooklyn. Children ages six to 16 can go to any Playstreet regardless of their address, as long as a parent or guardian pre-registers them, according to PAL.
Frederick Watts, PAL executive director, said that not every Playstreet is on an actual street; they are usually in a New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) facility, a park or a shelter, because NYCHA and the city Parks and Recreation Department provide most locations, storage facilities for equipment, and nearby restrooms.
According to him, private sponsors like Verizon, StubHub, and the MetLife Foundation help fund the Playstreets, which are eagerly anticipated by participants.
“[I’ve] been looking forward to it,” nine-year-old Marileisis Lopez said. “I enjoyed it.”
Each Playstreet is open Monday through Friday until August 21.