A chained fence blocks access to a playing field in Bill Rainey Park, frustrating the hundreds of students who attend school next door.
"They are staring at a park out of their classroom window that they don't have access to,” said Britney Weinberg-Lynn, the principal of Success Academy Bronx 3 Middle School. “And how do you explain that to a nine-year-old that just wants to go outside and play?"
The building, which houses three separate schools, has no gymnasium or outdoor play space. When the new academic year began, the principals of the three schools asked the Parks Department for permission to use the field for sports and recess.
But the department said no, insisting the field was only open to teams playing softball, kickball or Little League baseball. Some other areas of the Park were available, but the principals said that was not an option because of criminal activity there.
"It's just really difficult for us to get access to the park and to have our kids not get stuck by a needle," said Asya Johnson, the principal of Longwood Preparatory Academy.
Every morning, the three principals say, the park fills up with people drinking and using drugs, and a man was murdered there in June.
"There is drug activity, criminal activity, definitely urination on the side of our building, people sleeping,” Johnson said. “We actually went out there in the summer, saw someone passed out, another one urinating at the same time."
The building contains a Success Academy charter middle school and two high schools: Longwood Prep and Co-op Tech.
When the Parks Department said only teams could use the fenced-in field, their city councilman came up with an idea: apply to use the field as a kickball team, which is exactly what Success Academy did.
"So we are actually the Bronx Three Middle School kickball team and when we resubmitted the permit like that, we were approved,” said Weinberg-Lynn. “But it's only until November, and it's only for one hour, so we have very limited access to the park."
So every day for recess, the kids are required to play kickball.
When we first asked the Parks Department about its bureaucratic response to the schools, a spokeswoman repeated the agency's restrictions on the field's use. But she later got back to NY1, saying the Parks Department would work with the Education Department to find a solution.
The NYPD says the local commanding officer is "aware of the condition of the park" and has installed cameras and assigned a permanent patrol.
Meanwhile, the students are getting very good at kickball.