NYC Families, Youth Organizations Brace for Summer Without Camp

At least 175,000 city youth could be without plans this summer thanks to proposed cuts to summer camps, desperate parents and youth organizations warned Thursday.

The cuts, proposed last month by Mayor de Blasio as part of his executive budget, would wipe out the city’s free summer camps for 100,000 young people and cut a decades-old teen employment program for 75,000 more. Some parents, fearful of kids sitting bored at home for months, and with few childcare options, are considering drastic measures.

Carlos Sanchez, the father of a seven-year-old in Sunnyside, Queens, is thinking of sending his daughter to stay with family in Russia if the city-funded summer camp where he usually sends her doesn’t operate this year.

“Having a seven-year-old child growing up, you don’t want to miss those moments,” he lamented. But “it’s that uncertainty of ‘what can be done?’”

It’s a dilemma for parents, young people and youth programs across the city preparing for months of unstructured time when kids would normally be happily engaged in summer activities, camps, and field trips.

City officials have said it’s too soon to know whether in-person gatherings will be safe this summer, and argue it would be irresponsible to spend more than $200 million allotted for free summer youth programming when the city is facing a $7 billion revenue shortfall.

When asked Tuesday about the city’s Summer Youth Employment Program, Mayor de Blasio said “one, we don’t have money right now, two, we don’t have a logistical framework to make it work because people can’t gather and it is wholly dependent on people gathering in the same place.”

But dozens of youth services organizations say eliminating the vital programming without coming up with an alternative plan is “abandon[ing] the individual children, young people, and families who rely on these programs at a time when families are facing both emotional trauma and economic hardship.”

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