What will summer in NYC look like for kids? Camps, pools, and other programs face cuts

As New York City students lament the loss of school for the remainder of the year, their options for summer also look grim, with public pools closed and city-funded summer camps and a youth jobs program canceled. 

Mayor Bill de Blasio’s proposed budget announced Thursday slashes a host of summer programs for low-income students as the city expects a huge financial hit to its coffers. Those cuts include after-school programs that operate summer day camps. The city says these programs might not be safe given the coronavirus crisis, but cutting them could pose significant challenges if New Yorkers are still practicing social distancing and trying to keep families indoors. 

The mayor has not said how the city will handle summer school, though the education department is creating “all sorts of scenarios,” including online summer learning. 

“We don’t have any assurance yet that we can do anything in person this summer, you know, in school buildings,” de Blasio told reporters on Thursday. “We only — at this point, I think — can truly plan on the reopening of schools in the beginning of September. That’s where our energy is going.”

Some elected officials and students have pushed back on the elimination of summer programs at such a challenging time for city youth. 

The cancellation of summer day camp programs run by Beacon, COMPASS, Cornerstone, and SONYC could be a huge loss for many families, particularly low-income New Yorkers, said Gregory Brender, director of children and youth services at United Neighborhood Houses, which represents settlement houses that support summer programs for youth, including employment programs. 

If stay-at-home orders are indeed lifted by the summer, students will lose an opportunity for enrichment programs after spending months at home, Brender said, who noted that after-school programs are currently operating online. Parents who haven’t earned a paycheck for months will be clamoring to head back to work, he also noted, but they will lose free child care.

“If they’re waiters or they’re driving for rideshare services, they haven’t been getting an income for a while. They’re gonna need to get back to work, and this may be the only free child care option they have,” Brender said.

Older students may be hard hit by the loss of the summer youth employment program, which is  a financial lifeline for many young people, said Marlen Mendieta-Camaron, a junior at Midwood High School and policy team member with the advocacy group Teens Take Charge. 

“We can see that it really is differently valued to different students, so to keep this going is really important,” Mendieta-Camaron said Wednesday during a virtual town hall hosted by Public Advocate Jumaane Williams. 

Here are proposed cuts to summer programs: 

  • $124 million cut over fiscal years 2020 and 2021 to temporarily suspend the Summer Youth Employment Program, which last year employed nearly 75,000 young people between the ages of 14 to 24 in nonprofit, government, or private sector jobs
  •  $55 million cut to suspend summer programming, including COMPASS, which provides academic and recreational options at schools and other community-based centers, Beacon, which offers school-based programs, and Cornerstone, available to families who live in public housing
  • $49 million in program cuts that include Summer in the City, a free science-focused academy with field trips to museums, parks, and other cultural sites
  • $6 million in fiscal year 2021 for the cancellation of Summer SONYC, which provides all-day summer programs for middle-school students
  • $600,000 in fiscal year 2021 for cutting 1,000 summer camp spots through the city Parks Department