Parks Dept Finally Opens Its Summer Day Camp Lottery

The highly sought after spots are offered at a relatively low cost–$500 for the 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. regular camps–which run for seven weeks from Monday July 8 to Friday Aug. 23. Admission is by lottery, which opened for applications on March 4 and closes on March 23.

| 04 Mar 2024 | 02:46

After months of anxious waiting by kids and parents alike, registration for the New York City Parks Department summer camps program finally went online on Friday March 1.

While there was little question that there would be Parks Department camps this summer, their exact dates and costs remained a mystery well after most other camps—both private and public— had posted this information and started taking applications and payments.

Would the politics of the Adams administration’s unpredictable, now-you-see-it, now-you-don’t migrant-crisis related budget cuts and budget restorations affect the Parks Department camp programs too? With much loved— and much missed—Sunday New York Public Library service still suspended for budgetary reasons, anything seemed possible.

Happily—and somewhat shockingly—this seems not to be the case. Indeed, to the contrary, rates and fees for the 2024 camp season appear to be nearly the same as those for 2023. How this remarkable feat of municipal non-inflation came to be is a welcome mystery few will question for, as invaluable as summer camps are, they can be quite expensive.

This is especially true for the city’s middle and working-class families, the children of whom often also lack access to the abundance of extra-scholastic programs enjoyed by more affluent kids. Enter the New York City Parks Department, whose Recreation Center-based camps for children ages 6 to 13 for regular day camp, which runs 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday - Friday costs $500 per child for seven weeks. You can also sign up for extended Day Camp Cost from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. which costs $575 per child for seven weeks. These rates are around one half to on third the price of most private camps. The Parks Dept. camps from Monday, July 8 to Friday, August 23.

There is a catch, however. Because they are so popular, admission to the programs—which are based out of the various Parks Department recreation centers around the city—is done by lottery.

One wishes it was otherwise but there is only so much physical space available at any given recreation center. Another unfortunate issue is that not all recreation centers are used as camp sites. Indeed, of Manhattan’s thirteen recreation centers, only four of them accommodate summer camps. (In Brooklyn, the disparity is even more glaring: with a population of around 2.6 million people, there are but eight recreation centers, and only one of which offers summer camp.)

Similarly, while it’d be nice if public school facilities could be utilized for camps, they serve their own seasonal functions, notably the Department of Education’s Summer Rising programs. Depending on a family’s needs, Summer Rising can be a useful—and free— camp alternative to camp. Depending on a child’s age, Summer Rising programs for kids in kindergarten through 8th grade are for various dates in July and August. Registration via a family’s NYC My School account opened on Monday March 4 and closes on March 25.

As for the Parks Department summer camp, lottery registration continues through Saturday March 23. After this period, those who are selected then have three days to make a decision to attend. For those who say yes, commits payment in full or in parts then follows. For those who say no, that opens a spot on the waitlist for kids who didn’t get in.

Is this stressful enough yet?

Once you’re in, however, whew! Although the specific offerings of each camp varies by location, they include sports, games, arts and crafts, “STEAM” (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Mathematics) programs, field trips and nature exploration with Urban Park Rangers. Swimming is the big “if”—some recreations have it, some don’t. Weather too effects camp programming but each location is able to accommodate numerous indoor activities as well as outdoor activities and adventures.

The recreation centers in Manhattan that offer Parks Department summer camp include:

Alfred E. Smith Recreation Center, 80 Catherine Street

Chelsea Recreation Center, 430 West 25th Street [POOL]

Constance Baker Motely Recreation Center 348 East 54th Street [POOL]

J. Hood Wright Recreation Center, 351 Fort Washington Avenue