On Monday, city officials joined players from New York City Football Club (NYCFC) to debut 10 new community soccer pitches throughout the five boroughs.
The effort is part of the New York City Soccer Initiative, a $3 million public-private partnership launched in 2016 to build, maintain and program 50 soccer pitches in underserved neighborhoods over five years.
In Queens, students from PS 220 on the border of Corona and Forest Hills celebrated the official opening of their new, blue soccer pitch in their school playground.
Two other mini-soccer pitches have already been opened in Astoria and Glen Oaks, and both are highly used, according to Queens Parks Commissioner Dorothy Lewandowski.
“Programs like these increase opportunities for our children to get involved in sports and fitness,” she said. “We’re excited that these fields will bring this globally loved sport and related programming to even more of our city’s children.”
By the end of 2018, the New York City Soccer Initiative hopes to open 11 new pitches in total, including ones at IS 384 in Bushwick and PS 446 in Brownsville.
PS 220 Principal Josette Pizarro said bringing a soccer pitch to students means they’re able to play and learn about the sport.
“The pitch has now become one of the popular spots for our students, especially during recess and school days,” she said. “Our students of all ages have been able to come down here, and they’re very excited to be able to use the soccer pitch to practice and enhance their skills.”
The new space will aid the school in teaching children about respect, accountability, cooperation and sportsmanship, she said.
“This partnership will strengthen this teaching and support our efforts to ensure students are active and living healthy lives and lifestyles,” Pizarro said.
New York City FC midfielder Valentin Castellanos joined the Queens students for the opening on Monday. Castellanos, 20, chatted with students in Spanish and took photos with the faculty and staff.
The Argentina native said having more soccer pitches is important for the sport and good for the students.
“Not only does it give them a great spot to play, but great scenery for them to learn the game,” he said through a translator.
He added that in the few months he’s been in New York City, he’s seen the sport grow.
“I truly believe that in a few years, the sport will not only be a major force in New York, but a major force throughout the country,” Castellanos said. “The U.S. will be a big market when it pertains to soccer.”