Late Summer Scene: Thomas Jefferson Park in East Harlem

Kids playing around in a park in East Harlem during mid-August.

Young teens sit under the trees as they lazily spend the last few days of August at the local park (Mally Espaillat/NY City Lens)

Wherever you are outside, the sun follows you—on the sidewalk, in the pool, even next to the Mr.Softee truck with all of it’s soft serve summer antidotes. One exception is this shady spot between the track and the playground in East Harlem’s Thomas Jefferson Park, where a group of young teens sit at a picnic table.

It’s late afternoon on a Wednesday as the cluster of kids makes its way from the fenced track to the table. Some sit on the benches, while one sits directly on the table, resting his bright-red sneakers on the seat below. They’ve left a few gym bags behind the net in the center of the runway, two of them with lacrosse sticks pointing straight up towards the sky.

They sit mainly in silence for a few minutes, while another ambles along dribbling a grayed basketball. He tries to bounce the ball in such a way to hit the boy sitting on top of the table, but overshoots. He runs after the ball, making his way towards the playground where toddlers are running after each other. Once he gets his hands on the ball, he jogs back to the table as everyone watches. With all eyes on him, he lobs the ball into one of the many trees hanging overhead, rustling the branches.

The lone girl in the group screams and jumps up from the table as the ball falls towards her. The boys all laugh. Half angry, half in jest, the girl puts the red headphones she had resting on her knees, over her head, and walks back to the track. Underneath the shade of the trees, they all holler at her to stop being a baby and come back to the table, but once she reaches the net, she sits on the grass with a dramatic flip of her hair. The boys chuckle to themselves, one of them muttering a low “whatever.”

With the last few days of summer ahead of them, they seem to have grown comfortable in the slow haze of late August. There isn’t much to do, and there isn’t much you want to do. A light breeze rolls in, chiming in with Drake’s Started From The Bottom playing on a nearby speaker. “Hey, can you at least bring that bag over here,” one of the boys shouts. They all break out into laughter.