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Follow the Data Podcast: A Summer Unlike Any Other

Summer has always been a special time for children to get outdoors and play – but the coronavirus pandemic posed a challenge for summer camps and programs serving youth.

The Fresh Air Fund, which was founded in 1877 at the height of the tuberculosis epidemic in New York City was determined to continue its mission of providing free summer experiences for kids. With the support of Bloomberg Philanthropies, Ford Foundation, and The JPB Foundation, The Fresh Air Fund created Summer Spaces, in collaboration with the city, transforming closed New York City streets into age-appropriate, socially distant, play spaces that provided nearly one hundred slots for children at 10 different neighborhoods sites each day. The program also provided employment to local youth ages 18 to 24, who served as activity specialists, coaches, and counselors.

The Summer Spaces program was borne from ‘Summer Streets,’ a program launched during Mike Bloomberg’s tenure as mayor, which closed streets to give New Yorkers more spaces for recreation. The program builds on guidelines published in Bloomberg Associates’ Janette Sadik-Khan’s Designing Streets for Kids, which highlights strategies and roadway designs that allow children of all ages and abilities to utilize streets.


Fresh Air Fund Summer Space, August 5, 2020, Jackson Heights, New York

Special thanks to the many program partners, including ones mentioned in this episode: Ford Foundation, JPB Foundation, the American Ballet Theater, Culture Lab LIC at The Plaxall Gallery, Scholastic, and Hunger Free America NYC.

In this episode, Fatima Shama, the Executive Director of The Fresh Air Fund, sits down with Megan Sheekey, who leads strategic partnerships at Bloomberg Associates, to tell us more about how The Fresh Air Fund has innovated its programming during the pandemic, how The Fresh Air Fund worked with local partners to support communities, and how cities can more effectively collaborate with partners in order to improve quality of life for their residents.

You can listen to the podcast and past episodes in the following ways:

More episodes from our coronavirus series include: