LES Soccer Fields to Reopen, Apparently After Pressure from Locals
Two popular soccer fields on the Lower East Side will reopen this week after nearly a month of coronavirus-related closure, and, apparently, community opposition.
Playgrounds and basketball courts across the city were sealed from use earlier this month to keep congregating groups at bay. (Parks remained open, for the most part.) At the time, soccer fields had been spared, albeit closely monitored for any infractions of social distancing.
To that end, two soccer fields in Sara D. Roosevelt Park – Nike Field (Stanton Street) and Lions Gate Park (Grand Street) – had been gated and locked.
“Unfortunately, during this health crisis, the issue of closing specific areas and courts in certain parks centered around more than just a few bad actors with a total disregard of social distancing,” a spokesperson from Councilmember Margaret Chin’s office stated. “As a result, playgrounds, dog runs, handball courts, soccer and track fields, skate parks and many other basketball and tennis courts have been closed.”
That “total disregard” apparently included “homeless encampments and pet owners using the artificial turfed courts as dog runs.”
However, apparently owing to a growing chorus of voices from locals, the city will this week acquiesce. Both Nike Field and Lions Gate Park are to reopen, but with slightly truncated hours. The short-staffed Parks Department relayed that these courts might open later than the usual 8:00am.
“Closing these open spaces is completely inappropriate and contradictory in the context of liquor stores and the subway remaining open,” Rivington Street resident and field advocate Nicholas Oliver wrote in a letter to the city’s Parks Department yesterday. “By closing these fields, the city has unduly deprived me and my neighbors of a safe place for exercise, which has harmed our mental and physical well being.”
Hours after the letter, Parks confirmed that the fields were ready to return.