City parks

City Parks

We caught up with Mike Silverman, Director of Sports for the City Parks Foundation, to discuss how World No. 1 tennis player Novak Djokovic surprised youth involved in the program with pieces from his new artist collection with Youssef Sy and a personalized video message direct from the US Open!

Novak surprised some youth in your program. What was that like?

Well, it’s not every day you receive a pep talk and gift from the number one player in the world! Our kids were surprised and thrilled at the same time. Novak surprised us and gifted the kids pieces from his new collection. When the package was opened a video automatically played of Novak sharing his experiences leading into the tournament, and provided motivation during this troubling time. The ability for our kids to have unique experiences like this really motivates them and is a special benefit of our partnership with Lacoste over the years. They won’t easily forget this.

How was the CityParks Foundation started?

In 1989, Kramer vs. Kramer author Avery Corman was concerned about the state of the park near where he had grown up in the Bronx, so he began looking for ways to improve it. Thanks to Avery, and many other dedicated New Yorkers who took action at a critical time in our city’s history, City Parks Foundation now reaches 310,000 New Yorkers every year, offering programming to encourage residents to use and care for their local parks and green spaces. Over the years, we have grown to meet community needs, adding such notable programs as CityParks tennis — now the largest municipal tennis instruction program for kids in the country.

City Parks

Why is it so important to provide access to sport for youth in NYC?

New York has many parks that are easily available to everyone, but it's access to free sports programs like ours that really gives kids a reason to be outdoors and stay active. This is especially true for youth who live in underserved communities, who desire but cannot afford to participate in tournaments or structured instructional programs. It's much easier to get out of your house and try something new when you have a free sports program in your own neighborhood.

What are some success stories from your efforts?

While we do have some accomplished players, most of our success stories are measured by how our program changes lives, whether it's someone earning a college tennis or golf scholarship or simply giving kids the opportunity to learn a new sport they can play for life. A more recent success story is our work this past summer to still offer some programming in spite of the challenges of COVID 19 this summer. We restructured our CityParks Golf and Tennis programs to follow all COVID-19 safety protocols and were able to successfully serve over 300 of our most dedicated juniors citywide. The stay-at-home lockdown in NYC this past spring was especially difficult for these youth, as they had few if any opportunities to practice and maintain their skills. They really appreciated the extra effort we made and Lacoste's support.