STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. - Nataly Hernandez, 21, graduated from Wagner High school last week and told her mother she was looking forward to attending camp, as she has for the last 10 years at Staten Island's Jewish Community Center.
The developmentally disabled student will be too old to attend next year. So when Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that day camps can open this summer her mother acted quickly to sign her up.
"They announced they're opening, we registered. A week or two later they announced, sorry Marvin's, we're not opening," said Lori Hernandez, Nataly's mother.
Marvin's Camp is the outdoor day camp offered by the JCC for students with developmental disabilities like Nataly's.
But while the JCC will operate its regular day camp, for children up to 15 years old, it told Hernandez that a state agency, the Office of People with Developmental Disabilities, would not permit Marvin's Camp to open.
The state agency says it considers Marvin's Camp mainly a respite, or indoor program, and those that are not yet allowed to open because of the coronavirus threat.
So now, Hernandez says, only children without disabilities will be able to attend the JCC day camp.
"It's discriminatory. Because the typical kid in the same family can go to the JCC and the disabled kid has to sit home," Hernandez said.
Marvin's camp, for most families, usually is paid for by Medicare, once the state approves.
Hernandez says she offered to pay out of pocket for Nataly to attend the JCC camp and was told that wasn't allowed either.
"I don't think they realize what they're doing. How it looks and how it affects people," Hernandez said.
Hernandez has filed a complaint against the state agency with the state Department of Human Rights and the City Commission on Human Rights.
The JCC directed questions to the Office of People with Developmental Disabilities, which tells NY1 it is "working closely with the state Department of Health on reopening steps that will safely include these respite day camps and other in-person services for people with developmental disabilities in congregate settings."
A JCC spokesperson added, "We understand how important Marvin’s Camp is to these children and their families. We are hopeful that OPWDD will change its decision and allow Marvin’s Camp to open this summer."
Hernandez says she is preparing her daughter for the idea that her final summer of camp may have been last year.