July 24, 2020 Category: Press Release


The Programs will Provide 26,000 Play Slots for Kids Ages 5-13 and Employment for over 200 Youth

NEW YORK, NY – July 24, 2020 — Bloomberg Philanthropies, Ford Foundation, and The JPB Foundation today announced a $1.2 million grant to support The Fresh Air Fund’s new Summer Spaces and Youth Employment Programs in New York City. This partnership represents an investment in shaping the future of New York City by addressing the lack of appealing options this summer for children to play outdoors safely and for young New Yorkers to gain valuable work experience and earn income due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Summer Spaces turns closed streets and open spaces into age-appropriate play spaces that will employ social distancing measures, a model that can be replicated across New York City and beyond. From the week of July 27th through August 27th, The Fresh Air Fund will manage Summer Spaces in the Bronx, Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Queens for children from low-income communities, ages five to 13, providing safe, supervised outdoor recreation.  The Fresh Air Fund has been working closely with city agencies, with planning guidance from the NYC Department of Transportation. The Fund will post the Summer Spaces site locations on its website over the coming days. The sites will be operated on Mondays through Thursdays and each serve approximately 90 children daily. In total, nearly 26,000 slots will be available for youth participants over the course of the summer. 

“During the Bloomberg Administration, ‘Summer Streets’ reimagined New York City’s roads and gave New Yorkers more space to be active and enjoy the outdoors. Summer Spaces builds on that idea by providing children across the city more places to get outside, participate in supervised activities, and most importantly, have fun – because when you’re a kid, that’s what summer break should be all about,” said Patti Harris, CEO of Bloomberg Philanthropies and former First Deputy Mayor of New York City. “In the midst of this pandemic, the mission of The Fresh Air Fund is more important than ever, and we’re glad to support this creative new way to fulfill it.”

“Summer in New York has always been a special time for millions of residents and now, especially in this time of crisis, we need to find ways for children to safely enjoy it,” said Darren Walker, president of the Ford Foundation. “Our hope is that Summer Spaces will be a lifeline to young people and their families in the city.  The Fresh Air Fund is doing commendable work to meet the growing needs of low-income families and we’re thrilled to help support their mission.”

The Summer Spaces program is inspired by “Summer Streets,” which was launched in 2008 during the Bloomberg Administration to open New York City streets for weekend recreational use. In response to the pandemic, the NYC Department of Transportation is currently limiting vehicle traffic along up to 100 miles of roads to local access only, allowing streets to be used for walking, cycling, and other outdoor activity while maintaining safe distancing. This new Fresh Air Fund partnership will also build on guidelines being published this month in Designing Streets for Kids, which highlights strategies and roadway designs that allow children of all ages and abilities to utilize cities’ most abundant asset – its streets. The guide is a Bloomberg Philanthropies collaboration with NACTO’s Global Designing Cities Initiative, led by Bloomberg Associates transportation principal Janette Sadik-Khan. With the Summer Spaces “Open Street” model, The Fresh Air Fund and its partners will provide safe and engaging outdoor activities that will strengthen social emotional learning and provide a critical network of support.

The Fresh Air Fund, an independent, not-for-profit organization, has provided free summer experiences to more than 1.8 million New York City children from low-income communities since 1877.  This summer, despite the challenges presented by COVID-19, The Fund will continue to provide free, safe, fun and enriching experiences for New York City youth to keep the magic of summer alive through Fresh Air Summer Spaces in New York City; Fresh Air Youth Employment; Fresh Air Everywhere Virtual Programming, and Fresh Air Family Wellness at its camps.

“We are deeply grateful for the generosity of Bloomberg Philanthropies, Ford Foundation and The JPB Foundation for their support of the critical need for our children this summer,” said Fatima Shama, Executive Director, The Fresh Air Fund.  “Children need to experience the joy and freedom of outdoor summer play, and given the lack of safe and structured activities for children who have been inside for more than 12 weeks, sunshine and being outdoors being physically active is needed now more than ever.” 

In addition to the Summer Spaces management team, support services, nursing staff, and site supervisors, the Summer Spaces program will provide employment to over 200 young people, ages 18 to 24, who will serve as activity specialists, coaches and counselors. “Funding from these generous foundations will also help respond to the earnings gap for our young people who want meaningful summer employment,” added Ms. Shama. “We have a long history at The Fresh Air Fund of promoting career exploration through our summer and year-round programs, while promoting training and workforce development.” 

At the designated Summer Spaces sites children can participate as many days as they wish, and parents/caregivers will register children through an online system.  Fresh Air will partner with community-based organizations, cultural institutions, businesses, community leaders and community residents as well as relevant city agencies to ensure safe and memorable engagements. 

Activities will include both creative, arts-based programming and active, recreation-based programming. Art projects may include crafts such as making kaleidoscopes, birdhouses, masks, rhythm drums, “I am” collages, mobiles, cloud climbers and pinwheels. Recreation programming may include drills in basketball and frisbee, dance parties such as freeze dance or dance charades, along with cardio and yoga hot spots.  Children may also participate in playing giant board games and line math activities, and there will be a “cool down” area for kids who would prefer a quiet space for themselves.  Recognizing the emotional toll of the pandemic, a social worker will be at each Summer Space location, as well as medical support staff.

The health and safety of Fresh Air children will always be the top priority in providing secure and engaging summer experiences. In Fresh Air Summer Spaces, staff will follow the guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), New York Forward, and participate in contact tracing training from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and supported by Bloomberg Philanthropies.  The Fund will also adhere to the New York City Department of Health (NYC DOH) outdoor activity guidelines and New York State Office of Children and Family Services (NYS OCFS) Reopening Child Care and Day Camp Program Guidelines.  

About Bloomberg Philanthropies

Bloomberg Philanthropies invests in more than 570 cities and over 160 countries around the world to ensure better, longer lives for the greatest number of people. The organization focuses on five key areas for creating lasting change: the Arts, Education, Environment, Government Innovation and Public Health. Bloomberg Philanthropies encompasses all of Michael R. Bloomberg’s giving, including his foundation and personal philanthropy as well as Bloomberg Associates, a pro bono consultancy that works in cities around the world. In 2019, Bloomberg Philanthropies distributed $3.3 billion. For more information, please visit bloomberg.org or follow us on FacebookInstagramYouTubeTwitter, and TikTok.

About Ford Foundation

The Ford Foundation is an independent, nonprofit grant-making organization.  For more than 80 years it has worked with courageous people on the frontlines of social change worldwide, guided by its mission to strengthen democratic values, reduce poverty and injustice, promote international cooperation, and advance human achievement.  With headquarters in New York, the foundation has offices in Latin America, Africa, the Middle East, and Asia.

About The JPB Foundation

The JPB Foundation advances opportunity in the United States through transformational initiatives that empower those living in poverty, enrich and sustain our environment, and enable pioneering medical research.

About The Fresh Air Fund

The Fresh Air Fund, an independent, not-for-profit organization has provided free summer experiences to more than 1.8 million New York City children from low-income communities since 1877.  This summer, despite the challenges presented by COVID-19, The Fund will continue to provide safe, fun, engaging and enriching experiences for New York City youth to keep the magic of summer alive through virtual and outdoor programs. Fresh Air children also participate in year-round leadership and educational programs.  For more information, visit FreshAir.org.