Albany Gives Kids Space To Play In New 'PlayStreets' Initiative
The city of Albany has launched an initiative to give younger residents a safe place to play and learn this summer during the coronavirus pandemic.
The traveling event, called PlayStreets, features free lunch, music, and plenty of games – spaced at least six feet apart, of course. The clouds threatened rain during its inaugural stop July 17th at Sacred Heart Park in North Albany, but Department of Recreation Commissioner Jonathan Jones says the effort aims to hit as many of the city's 15 wards as it can, particularly urban neighborhoods.
“The point is to bring partners here to engage with neighbors, to see not only the resources that are available, but to see ways to keep them active. We have our boxing team here to show some boxing skills, we have Mildred Elley here, who’s gonna be giving a scholarship, Boys & Girls Club...All these different departments, the police department, the fire department, so that people know what resources are available, and then how to protect themselves – just because we’ve been so isolated for so long.”
It’s not just COVID-19 keeping people inside – the Capital Region is also experiencing one of its hottest and more violent summers in recent memory. With that in mind, Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan says PlayStreets has been long in the making as a way for the city to both give back and provide some levity. Playstreets will take place every Friday from noon to about 3 p.m., typically closing down neighborhood streets in the process. Jones notes that visitors must wear masks, maintain social distancing, and live in the local neighborhood to take part, but the event’s rotating cast of vendors spans the city.
Ishmael Morton of the Boys & Girls Club of the Capital Area says play in the time of COVID-19 is about getting creative with the basics. Even contact games, like ‘Steal the Bacon’ can be made relatively low-impact with a few moderations.
“Typically there’s an object an object at the middle, they have to grab the object and put it back on their side – instead of grabbing an object, what they do is they touch an object, and the first one to run back to their side after touching the object gets a point for their team," Morton explains. "Another game that we brought over here is just a net and soccer ball. Just simple fun like that.”
Sheehan notes the very debut of PlayStreets is a sign of how far the region has come in the wake of COVID-19. Still, Albany County Executive Dan McCoy says there are 67 active cases in the county, some of them linked to out-of-state travel and 22 traced back to a large July 4th backyard party on Hudson Avenue. Sheehan warns now is not the time to get complacent with health and safety guidelines.
“We cannot continue on the path that we’re on. We will shut back down," she adds. "You know, I really want to appeal to people and say ‘Mask up, or shut down,’ it’s in our control. So many people want our schools to open, if we’re over 5 percent [infection rate] our schools won’t be able to open. So we have to take this seriously: social distancing, masks, wash your hands.”
Again, PlayStreets takes place Fridays at noon, weather permitting. Each week’s stop will be announced Wednesdays on the city’s website.