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'Let Kids Play' -- Parents, Lawmakers Sound Off On NYC Parks Department Not Issuing Permits For Youth Sports

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- With kids going back to school, including many sticking to remote learning, parents are relying on fall sports as an outlet.

They are now arguing that may not happen in a safe manner because the city Parks Department is not issuing permits for youth sports, CBS2's Jenna DeAngelis reported Monday.

Playing soccer is what 11-year-old teammates Natalia O'Brien and Oona Hamid have been looking forward to.

"Play outside and have time to be with other friends and run around," Natalia said.

"We've just been stuck inside for so long," Oona added.


They were ready to kick off the new school year with their soccer club, Brooklyn City FC, until youth sports organizations received an email from the Parks Department stating "due to health and safety concerns," it will not be issuing fall athletic field permits, but fields remain open on a first-come first serve basis.

"Without the permits, then it's a free for all at the field. So there's a few things. One, you have no idea who's on the field, who's crossing paths," said Jesse DeLorenzo, president and founder of Brooklyn City FC.

DeLorenzo is among a group of parents, coaches, and elected officials calling on the city to right what they feel is a wrong.

"To reverse that decision, to issue conditional permits that can be revoked if the health metrics change for any reason," State Sen. Andrew Gounardes said.

"We have hundreds of thousands of kids in this city who belong to leagues, who look forward to these sports," City Councilman Justin Brannan added.

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The representatives wrote a letter to the city, stating permitting these activities ensures they are organized, socially-distanced and supplied with proper personal protective equipment.

READ: Youth Sports Permits Letter 8.20.20

They argue state guidance has allowed low-risk youth sports in Phase 3 reopening since early July.

Confused parents are wondering why the city won't issue permits in parks.

"The idea of not being able to do this in an organized way is really disappointing," Brooklyn parent Ragan Royne said.

One nonprofit, South Bronx United, created a petition that points out its program keeps teens off the street with mentors.

The kids DeAngelis spoke to said it's more than just a game.

"Have fun with your friends, learn a lot of sportsmanship, learn respect," Brooklyn City FC's Celsino Mesut said.

They all are joining in on a clear message to the city -- "Let kids play."

The Parks Department would not make someone available to go on camera, but issued the following statement:

"Our fields remain open for first-come, first-serve socially distanced play -- baseball, softball and Little League teams can play or practice on any open field. As this public health crisis is ever-evolving, we will continue to reassess our ability to issue permits later in the fall."

On Monday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo expanded guidance specifically for schools, saying lower-risk sports such as tennis, cross country, soccer and field hockey could practice and play, statewide, beginning Sept. 21.

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