Department of Education Agrees to Reopen Seward Park Playing Fields

The Seward Park athletic courts, on Essex Street.

There’s good news this this afternoon concerning public access to the Seward Park campus playing fields.  Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver is out with a press release announcing that the Department of Education, which owns the recreational area on Essex Street, has decided to reopen it for use by the general public.

As we first reported in May, the DOE had closed the facility for neighborhood use. Maintenance workers told residents budget cuts were to blame. Silver, who ten years ago helped secure money to refurbish the fields, sent a letter to Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott urging him to reconsider.  In today’s release, the Speaker said:

I am delighted that my neighbors on the Lower East Side and in Chinatown will now be able to enjoy this wonderful park… Recreational space is so precious to our neighborhood, particularly in the summer, and that is why I fought so hard for the public to once again have access to this field. I want to thank Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott for agreeing to reopen the field. I encourage children in our community to come out and enjoy it!

The rec area consists of basketball courts, tennis courts and a running track.  it’s primarily meant for use by the schools located in the Seward Park campus on Grand Street, but it’s always been widely used by non-students.  Beginning Monday, July 30, the fields will be opening from morning to dusk seven days a week.

Silver Urges DOE to Reopen Seward Park Field to the Public

The Seward Park athletic courts, on Essex Street. July 2011.

The recreational sports field next to Seward Park, on Essex Street, is a popular destination for neighborhood kids. But in the past couple of months, the handball, tennis, basketball courts and running track have been unusually quiet.  This is because the Department of Education, which controls the field, suddenly decided to keep non-students out of the facility.

Yesterday, State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver released a letter he sent to DOE Chancellor Dennis Walcott, urging him to reverse the decision:

In a community where children have few options for enjoying free, public outdoor activities, it is essential that we reopen this park at once, especially with summer approaching. We should be providing more opportunities for our children to engage in safe, healthy physical activities, not shutting down public access to our parks.