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Warm Weather Brings Mixed Results for Black People Accessing Outdoor Recreational Spaces

Coach Sharard Sullivan with his younger team. (photo courtesy SS Soccer Academy)

By Mary Alice Miller
New York City, through its Department of Health, encourages healthy living with programs like Shape-Up New York, a free family fitness program, and publicly available indoor and outdoor spaces. However, accessing these spaces is a mixed bag.
Recently, High-Quality Tennis, a Black-woman-led tennis organization, lost its concession in an unsuccessful bid after serving the Bed Stuy community at the Jackie Robinson playground for five years. The loss has led to community outcry.

SS Soccer Academy has served the Bed Stuy community since 2015. Their participants range from ages 3-13, and as the kids grow up, they add a year. They have been at their current location on Lafayette Avenue and Malcolm X Blvd. since 2020, then the pandemic happened. They submitted their permit renewal last year and were subsequently told it was given to a group in Williamsburg. Sharard Sullivan, who runs the soccer academy, said he couldn’t sleep thinking about the kids who would be disappointed.

Sullivan called everyone he could think of and eventually connected to Councilman Chi Osse’s office. The councilman’s office “made stuff happen,” said Sullivan. “We were able to get our permit back.”

Caribbean Premiere Soccer League has yet to finish last year’s competition and still has its 2023 first-, second-, and third-place trophy prizes to award. Why? The league has been using the multi-school park at the old Wingate High School field for the past four years. CPSL’s season runs from May to just after Labor Day. However, repairs on the field began around Labor Day and were completed recently.

Meanwhile, CPSL applied for permit renewal and was denied first because the City said the field was still under repair, and then they were told that the schools did not want adults to play on the newly renovated field, and then they were told that the field is booked with activities. However, CPSL only uses the field on Sunday evenings after 2 pm. The league was offered a backfield in Flatlands but that location is not easily accessible to community members who find it convenient to use the park on Rutland Road. CPSL remains hopeful.


Lincoln Terrace Tennis Association uses the permit route to access tennis courts in Lincoln Terrace Park and has done so for the past ten years. LTTA’s season starts in May and has friendly games with other tennis groups throughout the summer. This year, LTTA is going to host Fort Greene in June and then visit Brookville in July. LTTA’s season ends in August with a Family Day celebration. LTTA volunteers with the Parks Dept. To clean the area and perimeter of the park.

Kings County Tennis League also uses Lincoln Terrace Park. KCTA has youth enrichment programs for children ages 3-5 enrolled in Brooklyn Kindergarten Society throughout central Brooklyn. Assemblywoman Latrice Walker accepts KCTL funding requests for the program at Howard Houses. As the children get older, KCTL works with them at Lincoln Terrace Park to teach tennis, build eye-hand coordination, and have fun.

This year SS Soccer Academy partnered with another organization and took a dozen kids to Dubai during Easter week for an international soccer competition where they interacted with kids from all over the world.

“The kids love soccer. It challenges them and exposes them to new ideas. Kids who have problems getting up early for school have no problem getting up for soccer. You spell love to kids with T.I.M.E.,” said Sullivan. “As an international student from Trinidad, soccer gave me everything. I don’t know where I would be if I didn’t get this opportunity through soccer. These kids should be able to get partial or full scholarships to go to college through soccer.”