Amidst rising frustration from student-athletes and their families, a group of southern Brooklyn elected officials is asking the city to bring back youth sports.
In a letter sent earlier this month to Mayor Bill de Blasio and schools chancellor Richard Carranza, State Senator Andrew Gounardes and three other Brooklyn elected officials requested “prompt, clear plans from health and education officials on the following: higher-risk sports, spring season youth sports league park permits, and re-opening of high schools and therefore PSAL sports,” referring to the Public Schools Athletic League that oversees public school athletics.
Governor Andrew Cuomo announced in late January that youth sports like basketball, football, wrestling and lacrosse, which had been suspended since the start of the pandemic, could resume. But he left the decision to allow such sports up to local officials, and though officials in nearby Suffolk, Nassau and Westchester counties have announced plans to restart their programs, New York City has not.
The inaction has led to anger and even protests from some student-athletes, their families and coaches.
In the letter, which was also signed by Council Member Justin Brannan, Assemblymember Jaime Williams and State Senator Roxane Persaud, elected officials expressed concern about the adverse “effects on physical health, mental health, and social connectivity” caused by pandemic-related school closures and remote learning. And they argued athletic activity “can mitigate these challenges youth are facing.”
“We know that COVID-19 prevention is paramount and can be logistically difficult, but we have the scientific knowledge to offer this guidance and we owe it to our youth to do so as they continue to wait months for vaccine distribution to unfold,” they wrote.
The elected officials had met with the Department of Education (DOE) in December to discuss the issue.
A spokesperson for the Department of Education (DOE) told Bklyner the department was “encouraged by recent updates from the State,” but did not provide a specific timeline for next steps.
“We are encouraged by recent updates from the State that allow us to create a pathway to bringing our scholar-athletes back together and give us the chance to restart programming that provides such tremendous benefit to so many,” the spokesperson, Nathaniel Styer, said. “Any PSAL return plan will adhere to all applicable city and state health rules and the public health situation in the city and more details will be available soon.”
DOE, meanwhile, has struggled with the recent departure of several high-level staff members as de Blasio completes his final year in office.