A New York City day camp was abruptly canceled, leaving parents without an explanation and their tuition money as they scramble to find alternate childcare arrangements for their kids.
The Empire Day Camp operating out of the Ella Baker School on the Upper East Side was supposed to open on Monday, but families arrived to find a sign saying it was closed. Parents trying to get answers couldn't reach any administrators.
"I can't reach anyone from the camp, my money has not been refunded, and my son is pretty much stranded," said one parent.
Felicia Pezold said she'd been counting on the camp to keep her child safe and occupied while she worked each day.
"That was her activity for the summer, and now that money's gone," she said.
Pezold paid between $2,300 and $2,400 for the summer day camp. Another parent, Rosa Striano, paid more than $3,500 for four weeks of camp for her two daughters.
"I have two girls who have no summer plans now," said Striano. "Thankfully, we have a big family who's helping us, but other camps are also full right now."
Empire's founder and former director Kinya Trotman died in March, but its camp and afterschool program continued, according to former employees, who say they have also been left in the lurch. They say Trotman's teenage son Kyree took over, but things deteriorated quickly.
"Once he took over the company, that's when things started going downhill. Checks started bouncing," said camp counselor Brandi Sampson.
Sampson said Kyree sent a letter at the end of June announcing the program was closing. When she asked about her last paycheck, Kyree called her "yelling and cursing, 'Don't ever call me again, stop texting me. As of today, there's no check,'" according to Sampson.
A person at an address listed for Kyree Trotman answered from behind the door but refused to speak to NBC 4 New York.
Administrators at the Ella Baker School, which has no affiliation with Empire Camp, would not comment to NBC 4 New York, but parents said they sent them a letter saying they could not reach anyone from the camp either.
"I'd like to get my money back first and foremost, but an explanation as to why this happened," said Pezold. "All these families are scrambling. No childcare, no activities for their children."
Striano said, "I want my money back, but more than anything I want them to be accountable for what they've done."
The Empire program's website states it is licensed by the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. A request for comment from the department was not immediately returned.
Parents say they will file police reports and complaints with the attorney general's office in the coming days.