LOWER EAST SIDE — After months of being shut to the public, the sport field at Seward Park High School will stay open outside of school hours for general use.
The field, which runs along Essex Street south of Grand Street, consists of handball, tennis and basketball courts as well as a small running track. Gates have locked out the community since April, but now the Department of Education will reopen the area dawn until dusk from July 30.
"Recreational space is so precious to our neighborhood, particularly in the summer," said Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, who negotiated with the DOE to allow local residents back in after school hours and during the summer break. "I encourage children in our community to come out and enjoy it."
Since its closure in April only the school has had access to the grounds or events that have rented out the space privately.
The DOE said through a spokeswoman it had decided to reopen the schoolyard as part of Mayor Michael Bloomberg's PlaNYC initiative to prepare the city for population growth.
Local resident Mathew Wong created a Facebook page called "Keep Seward Park's Athletic Grounds Opened to the Public" to mobilize protest against the park's closure. As of Friday it had 288 members with many leaving lamenting comments on the page about loosing the space.
"When it opens I will probably be there after work enjoying a game of handball or basketball," said Wong, a 23-year-old student.