April 10, 2017 By Hannah Wulkan
A group of Long Island City parents are pushing for the sports field near Gantry Plaza State Park to open an hour earlier each day.
LIC Parents Group, which has about 950 members, has asked that the State Parks Service open the gated sports field at 7 a.m. every day, an hour earlier than it currently opens, so that children can play outdoors before going to school.
“It’s a beautiful park but it can’t be utilized before school,” said local parent Kris Schrey who is leading the charge to open the park earlier and claims it would be good for the health of local children. “There have been numerous studies linking intense physical activity before school with cognitive functioning in school, so if we can allow our kids to play soccer or baseball in the morning, they will perform much better in school.”
Since launching the effort, several local politicians have jumped on board. A representative for State Senator Michael Gianaris said that he is working with the parents to find a solution, and Assembly Member Cathy Nolan wrote a letter to the New York State Parks Commissioner Rose Harvey in support of the parent group.
“Opening the park one hour earlier to 7AM would give both parents and children more opportunities for the children to get the exercise they need,” Nolan wrote.
Schrey said that since beginning the push for the sports field to be opened earlier, he learned that State Park employees regularly begin their days at 7 a.m., which would mean that it would not require extra staffing to open the field earlier.
He added that there have been several run-ins with Park personnel in regards to the soccer field in recent weeks. As recent as last week, there was a confrontation between about a dozen parents and several park rangers, when some children were accused of trespassing after hopping the fence to play soccer before the gate was open.
“What’s the job of NYS Park employees: making parks available to the public or blocking access?” Schrey posed in an email.
Representatives for New York State Parks did not return multiple requests for comment.