Updated April 11, 4:40 p.m.
Long Island City parents called on the State Parks Department to open a track and soccer field at Gantry State Park an hour earlier so that students and adults can squeeze in more recreational time.
And soon after, the State Parks Department complied — starting on April 17 the field will open at 7 a.m., according to spokesperson Randy Simons.
Located on Center Boulevard and 47th Avenue, the sports field used for joggers and soccer and baseball fans currently opens at 8 a.m. The space, which takes up an entire city block, is also frequented by students at neighboring P.S./I.S. 78 and their families.
LIC Parents Group, which consists of 964 members, asked that employees unlock the gates one hour earlier. They received support from Assemblywoman Catherine Nolan and Senator Michael Gianaris.
“It’s a very simple situation,” said Kris Schrey, a member of the group. “We’re in the lucky situation that there is a park, there’s a sports field with a running track and soccer field and the only problem is it doesn’t open early enough that people who go to work can use it before work and kids who go to school can use it before school.”
For the parents, opening the park earlier each day seemed like a no-brainer:
“It doesn’t take any money,” Schrey said. “It just takes a little bit of good will, common sense and sense of cooperation.”
The State Parks Department spokesperson agreed that now that there are longer daylight hours, the parents’ request was feasible.
“Each day, state park staff utilize the brief early morning daylight to prepare the park in a manner to ensure safe and enjoyable recreation for the thousands expected to visit,” Simons said. “As the morning daylight hours get longer and the weather gets nicer, State Parks will be opening the athletic field at Gantry Plaza State Park earlier to further accommodate our visitors wishing to start their day off in the outdoors.”
Long Island City parents are looking forward to the additional exercise opportunities this shift will give their children, who, according to a Department of Education report, are not getting enough exercise at school.
According to the report, during the 2015-2016 school year, 69.9 percent of Queens elementary students did not receive the state-mandated amount of PE, totaling 74,621 students. That makes Queens the borough with the second-highest number of students missing their required PE time out of the five boroughs.
When grades 6-12 and kindergarten are added, the number of students missing out on the required amount of PE skyrockets to 109,600.
Nolan, in her April 7 letter to State Parks Commissioner Rose Harvey, said opening the park an hour earlier would allow students to “get the exercise they need.”
“Research has shown a correlation between an increase in physical education and exercise and a better academic record for our students,” she added in the letter.