Monday, December 13, 2010

Mother Gaston's Brownsville Corner Stories

"One day I was looking out from my stoop and watching all the children play. People were chatting on the street, and it made me think about Brownsville. Though our heritage and culture runs deep, I felt there was something lacking within our community. 

But what was it?

I realized that I wanted to empower the youth and make them proud of their common heritage. Then I knew what I needed to do: create an educational and cultural center for old and young people of the neighborhood. This idea was the seed for the Heritage House."

Mother Rosetta Gaston had a dream for Brownsville. Mother Rosetta Gaston's dream for our community was for everyone to know their culture and history. Understand, if you we do not know who we are, then what are we living for? Mother Rosetta Gaston name still lives on in Brownsville.

Brownsville's P.S.12 fighting to save after-school tutoring program

(Photo Courtesy of NY Daily News)
"A Brownsville school is fighting to save an after-school tutoring program for at-risk kids that once spared it from a state takeover."

People let's save our schools!

 Check out this article on the New York Daily News website written by Ben Chapman. Ben Chapman composed an article about how P.S. 12 is going to lose their after-school literacy program due to Citywide budget cuts. The literacy program at the Brownsville school gives students one-on-one instruction to teach students basic reading methods to students in Grades three, four and five who reads at three grades below their reading level.

Let's Save Our Schools!

Click this link to read the article in its entirety: P.S. 12 Fighting to Save After-School Tutoring Program

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Brownsville Recreation Center 2nd Annual Christmas Tree Lightning Event

(Staff in Training Interns and Nia Thompson)

This past Friday, December 3rd, Greg "Jocko" Jackson, Jerry Childs, faculty and staff of the Brownsville Recreation Center held their 2nd Annual Christmas Tree Lightning Event. The event was filled with Holiday Spirit as the Staff in Training Interns entertained the youth with different activities. DJ Pleasure rocked the event with a variety of Christmas songs from Boyz II Men to Donnie Hathaway.

After DJ Pleasure did his thing on the turntables, the Staff in Training Interns became Music Producers. Some of the Staff in Training Interns had to orchestrate a small group of kids into one-hit wonders! The kids and Staff in Training interns sung Christmas Carols in the gymnasium. Their rendition of "Jingle Bells" will be sold iTunes in a couple of weeks.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Community Planning Partner Survey #1

Our Community Planning Partners, Randy Millard and Karrie Scarboro, put together a survey with questions regarding the state of Brownsville. Despite the violence and the everyday struggle a Brownsville resident endures, we must put our minds together to create a better Brownsville. Our Community Planning Partners will be in the neighborhood with the Community Planning Partner Surveys for you to fill out. The survey is only Five (5) questions. Here are the questions:

  1. Describe Brownsville:
  2. What are some advantages/disadvantages in Brownsville?
  3. What are ways we can unite our community?
  4. What are your opinions/suggestions in attracting our youth in the Brownsville Community?
  5. In which direction do you see Brownsville going to within the next Five years?
These are the questions that can change Brownsville! Picture that! Our Community Planning Partners have something special in-store for Brownsville. Come along and join the Community Planning Partners in making efforts to make Brownsville a better environment! 

Monday, November 15, 2010

Brownsville, Brooklyn Facebook Page

To all of my Facebook users, there is a Brownsville, Brooklyn Facebook Group Page! Check it out! Put up some of your suggestions and opinions on how we can change the neighborhood! Most importantly, add the page to one of your favorite pages. Let's make a change now! Hope Is Inside

 Brownsville, Brooklyn Facebook Group Page

Friday, November 12, 2010

The Japan Society Visits Brownsville

November 2-3, 2010

An observation field trip to Brownsville district of Brooklyn, New York. Followed by Social design charrette by designers, social entrepreneurs, and others whose work includes addressing social issues.

Organized by Japan Society

Visit The Japan Society Website to see what they do in the Japanese Community The Japan Society

Here are some photos taken from The Japan Society. 

To view the photos as a slideshow click here: Sildeshow

To view the photos as a thumbnail click hereThumbnail Link for Photos

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Brownsville on the Water

by Shawn Brooks

The Brownsville Partnership staff cruised the Hudson River enjoying the sounds and vibes of the summer abroad the Skyline Princess. Common Ground's annual summer all staff event brought together all departments and all 350 staff members for a day of food, music, socializing, dancing, and sight seeing as we sailed across the hudson river. The Brownsville Partnership staff all came in our summer best and it was a well deserved day of fun. Can't wait til next year!

Monday, July 26, 2010

Brownsville Partnership Farmer's Market

Are you hungry for food? But not just any food – amazingly fresh, ripe produce that is local and organic? I think your next market destination is the Brownsville Partnership Farmer’s Market on Livonia and Rockaway. The Brownsville Partnership has partnered with GrowNYC to provide healthier food to local Brownsville residents. Every Friday from 2PM to 6PM, we have a stand right across the 3 subway stop. With tables lush with corn, onions, scallions, beets, radishes, cherries, blueberries, and oh, so much more, it’ll be a feast for the eyes as well as hungry bellies. We take WIC, Health Bucks, Food Stamps/EBT, and cash. For every $5 EBT/Foodstamps you spend, you get $2 of FREE Health Bucks. By buying our produce, not only will you be helping out your health, but you’ll be directly supporting the Brownsville community and local farmers.

The Brownsville Community

Each Youthmarket farm stand is like a smallbusiness operated by its staff of teen entrepreneurs. We have employed threeBrownsville teenagers – Kashaun, Toby, and Douglas. After attending GrowNYC’s two-day training in Manhattan and attending various meetings at the Brownsville Partnership office, we’ve prepared them to organize and operate an urban farm stand in Brownsville.

With the guidance of Shane, our experienced Youthmarket coordinator, these young New Yorkers learn all aspects of small business management, including customer service, promotion, and marketing. They’ve also discovered the price and quality advantages of eating seasonal, local produce, as well as the nutritional value of the food they sell.

The Local Farmers

GrowNYC purchases wholesale quantities of fresh fruits and vegetables from local producers participating in the Greenmarket program or at the wholesale market for local growers in Hunt’s Point. This system provides farmers with additional revenue without requiring them to make the costly investments associated with retailing. Because most of the farmers who supply our markets have insufficient staff to handle multiple markets on a single day, the sales achieved through our market would otherwise be difficult to achieve. Furthermore, by expanding the market for locally grown produce, our market helps to keep regional farmland in production and reduce carbon emissions.

We’re going to start cooking classes sometime soon, so be on the look out!

Monday, July 19, 2010

by Shawn Brooks

In the mist of a city wide heatwave, an inferno was setting the streets ablaze in Brownsville Brooklyn. The young and the old all came out to soak up the sun, the water and, and the rhythmic vibes of the 2nd part of the 2nd annual Pitkin Summer Plazas celebrating the Brownsville Community and its merchants that align the Pitkin ave strip. If you weren't playing Bingo for prizes, you prolly were either riding one of the free scooters or rented a free bike from Bike and Roll of NYC. Maybe you were just enjoying the sweet sounds of Gospel harmonizing from the New Life Seven Day Adventist Praise Team or grooving to the sounds of Central America coming from the WAGAYUI BAND out of Gautemala. A good time was had by all no matter what you came for. The storm approached(approaching storm band) as the kids splished and splashed in the outdoor pool and sprinklers.

If you walked further down the strip you would have seen childrens face covered with mask they just made under the Arts & Craft tent. Or you might've even seen little kids walking up to you offering you a neighborly smile and a friendly hello with the newly made sock puppet. If you missed out on all of that, don't kick your self just yet. because you'll have one more opportunity to celebrate with us Saturday July 24th same time, same place.. dont be late and dont forget the camera! see you there!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

First Easter egg hunt at Betsy Head Memorial Park in Brownsville, Brooklyn

Sunday, April 4th 2010

Easter came a day early in Brooklyn yesterday morning, when dozens of eggs-cited children stormed Betsy Head Memorial Park for a massive egg hunt.
It was the first Easter event at the Brownsville park, but kids hoped it would become an annual spring tradition.
"I wish I had an egg detector," said Mirlaine Tanis, 10, who lives nearby. "I like the colors, like light pink, and the dresses you get to wear."
"I like the chocolate," added her brother, Christian, 8.
He was not alone.
"My favorite thing about this is the candy," said Amber Williams, 7, who accumulated a massive supply of sweets during the bash. "I think I will find 60 eggs because when it comes to eggs, I'm not kidding."
Amber also won the Easter hat contest, scoring her even more candy.
Her mother - who made the pink hat with carnations and an Easter bunny on top - was happy to be outside in her neighborhood with so many people having fun. "It's a beautiful day," said Vanetta Williams, 31. "It's sunny outside, and it's something fun to do.

Former NBA man Gregory Jackson needs help getting aid from Brownsville Recreation Center to Haiti

Clem Richardson

Maisel/NewsGregory "Jocko" Jackson, executive director of the Brownsville Partnership and Brownsville Recreation Center, runs myriad services for the Brownsville, Brooklyn community.
Gregory Jackson needs a little help.
The director of Brooklyn's Brownsville Recreation Center has a large room full of a tractor-trailer's worth of food, water and clothing that local residents donated for Haitian earthquake victims.
Now Jackson can't get anyone to take the pallets of supplies off his hands.
"We called a lot of groups and no one will take it," Jackson said. "The community gave so much stuff because we know what it is to need and not have. Now we need to get it where it is meant to go."
For Jackson, a Brownsville native and former NBA player who returned home - and to the center - in 1985 so he could help make it better, the quantity of supplies collected for Haiti is just more proof of the difference in how the community is and how it is seen by outsiders.
"People hear Brownsville and think of bad things," he said. "There are a lot of great things going on here.
"We live in a village just like the [Greenwich] Village. We do things in our neighborhood just like they do anywhere else."
Much of what happens revolves and evolves around Jackson, 59, who joined the center as a recreation specialist and 10 years later was given the reins.
It was a natural fit.
"I grew up in this building," he said. "I was born and raised in the neighborhood. I get a lot more satisfaction out of being here because I'm from the neighborhood."
Jackson said his first task when he assumed the directorship was to make the building more neighborhood friendly.
"It was like the building was off-limits before," Jackson said.
"They used to have metal detectors and that thick glass panels when you came through the front door. What is the purpose of that? We got rid of all that."
Jackson began running a dizzying array of programs and services out of the building at 1555 Linden Blvd., from meal and food bank programs for seniors to homework help, computer and sports programs for younger members.
There is a computer resource center, an indoor pool that Jackson wants to renovate, and fitness and dance rooms.
When the Empire Ballroom closed two years ago, removing one of the last roller skating rinks accessible to the community, the center started hosting free, weekly Friday skate nights, complete with a deejay and lights, in the center's gym.
Recently Jackson began soliciting bicycle donations for another creation, the Buffalo Soldiers Bike Club, which will teach neighborhood children to ride safely. A former New York Knick, he coaches the Reeves Drakeford Brownsville Jets, a local basketball team.
Jackson is also executive director of the Brownsville Partnership a group he started two years ago to help local people in danger of losing their homes or being evicted from their apartments access to needed city services.
"A lot of people just do not know what help is out there," Jackson said.
The center's programs extend well beyond its doors.
Jackson said each summer they sponsor a "Train Stop Show," where local bands perform live in subway stations that run through the community.
"It's a live show, with speakers, a band, microphones, the whole works," Jackson said.
Jackson is most proud of the Brooklyn Old-Timers Week. Held each July - this year's kicks off July 30 - it's a celebration of all things Brownsville. Last year, the event brought an estimated 35,000 people out to play.
"A guy called me the other day to ask when we would have it this year," Jackson said. "He was in Germany, about to be deployed to Iraq, and he wanted to plan his furlough time around it."
This year's program will also feature the first presentation of the Joyce Shelby Award, named for the late Daily News Brooklyn Bureau writer who died last year.
The father of nine and grandfather of seven, Jackson won the city Parks Department's W. Allison and Elizabeth Stubbs Davis Award last month for his "extraordinary dedication to the community he serves."
Ever the Brownsville booster, Jackson used his acceptance speech to invite everyone to Brownsville.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Obama in Brownsville?

Just imagine- President Obama meeting with residents of Brownsville in the middle of Betsy Head Park during a beautiful Spring day in May. At the beginning of his speech, President Obama would thank and congratulate Brownsville for a record turnout vote in November 2008.

After a New York Times article written by Samuel Roberts stating, “[a]ccording to the preliminary machine count on Tuesday, Mr. Obama carried the predominantly black 55th Assembly District, which includes Brownsville, with 98 percent of the votes from the nearly 35,000 people who cast ballots”; a certain momentum ran through the streets. President Obama restored HOPE within the community. You could feel the PRIDE oozing out through the streets. 98% of the VOTE in Brownsville is a HUGE accomplish if he only knew.

Just imagine if we use that same momentum and 98% of the families in Brownsville complete the Census form. Brownsville would become a local stop for all US Presidents.

Let’s get out there Brownsville. Let’s complete those Census forms and get President Obama out to Brownsville.


Tuesday, February 9, 2010

When you hear the word Brownsville...

One question 50 people: Vincent, a community organizer with the Brownsville Partnership decided to ask 50 people in and around Brownsville, “When you hear the word ‘Brownsville’, what comes to your mind?”

There have been some very interesting responses to this simple but yet complicated question. It’s a simple question because for some young people they most likely think about the here and now. What’s going on in the neighborhood as they presently see it? It’s a complicated question to many old timers because it forces them to think about what used to be. The answer often reveals details about a community where children were raised by the entire village. Today, children seem to fend for themselves. Its survival of the fittest by any means necessary. The old timers talk about a time when family used to host “Rent parties” for families needing a little extra help for the month. Today you have the need for organizations such as the Brownsville Partnership because families are becoming homeless and forced into the shelter system at alarming rates. Old timers talk about bustling parks, fresh fruits and vegetable stands and community shops carrying anything and everything you could possibly need. Today Brownsville is packed with 99 cent stores and corner stores with anything but healthy food.

What I see is a community with rich history, residents with the resilience to keep going and children with so much potential that only the sky can limit them. I’ve been fortunate enough to live in many places in and out of New York and have had the opportunity to meet people from all walks of life. But there is no place like Brownsville and I haven’t met one person that could measure up to personalities I’ve met in Brownsville. There’s no place like home.

I encourage everyone to visit Brownsville, Brooklyn and if you would like a personal tour, you can reach out to anyone at the Brownsville Partnership. After your visit, I invite you to ask yourself, “When you hear the word ‘Brownsville’, what comes to your mind?”


Sunday, January 31, 2010

Lock-'em-up laws infect entire neighbourhoods

Patty Winsa Staff Reporter

NEW YORK CITY—Visitors to the Museum of Modern Art in midtown Manhattan shuffle past sinewy resin chairs sculpted by computer and pixelated flowers moving on a wall. Then they stop to study an arresting red-and-black map of Brooklyn hanging in a dark corner of the Design and the Elastic Mind exhibit.
Each point on the map, and the red line rising from it like a ray of light, represents the home of a person who was sent to prison in 2003.
People move in to read the map’s description and back out to consider it anew. The sea of red lines obliterates Brooklyn, a startling depiction of an annual mass migration of residents from borough neighbourhoods to prison.
In 2003, those red lines added up to $359 million, the sum for locking up convicts from a handful of Brooklyn’s poorest communities, areas where incarceration rates are much higher than crime rates.More than $1 million was being spent to jail residents in each of 35 individual blocks.
By pinpointing where inmates lived — a radical departure from maps that normally show where crime occurred — author Eric Cadora of the Justice Mapping Center, was able to show that prisons hadn’t made these neighbourhoods any safer because the crime rate didn’t fall. In fact, prison was looking more like an endless migration policy. Millions of dollars were being spent to remove and return people, says Cadora.
In New York, more than half of state prison inmates get out within four years and return home. With little chance of finding a job and few services to ease their re-entry, a third are back in jail within three years, most for violating parole or probation.
The cost was an eye-opener for many states, leading legislators to question the 25-year ballooning investment in prisons despite a significant decline in crime rates during the last decade.
The result was justice reform and reduced incarceration in 10 states, which reinvestedthe prison savings in the neighbourhoods.
Canada doesn’t track where inmates come from or where they return to upon release. As part of this series, the Starobtained inmate address data through freedom of information requests to map incarceration costs. While the data did not allow for an analysis at the city block level, it did, in the case of Toronto, allow a look at a neighbourhood level. The most expensive areas for jail costs are home to the city’s least well off.
Which is exactly what Cadora’s maps demonstrate.
“When you look at prison populations, you find that they are mostly concentrated in very small parts of every city in the United States, and that those populations are very strongly correlated with poverty and with people of colour,” says Laura Kurgan, the Columbia University architecture professor who collaborated with Cadora to turn his map into a statement powerful enough to be a museum piece.
“Ninety-five per cent of people going to prison come back, but people didn’t think of that in the get-tough era,” says Cadora.
During the 1980s, the war on drugs saw penalties for most drug offences get much harsher. “It was like ‘throw away the key.’ But we didn’t throw away the key for anybody.We made sentences longer. We put a lot more people in for short times (that) we never (would have) put in (prison) at all.”
Studies have shown that communities with high prison admissions spiral even further down. Businesses leave, social networking is nonexistent, and what little informal social control there is fails when many of the area’s young men go to prison.
Over time, the chances of being incarcerated increases for any resident who lives there, says Jeffrey Fagan, a Columbia law professor who studied New York prison admissions from 1985 to 1996. He believes incarceration is “grown from within” in these areas. Coupled with more punitive police enforcement, it ensures a “growing number of repeat admissions . . . even as crime rates (fall).”
“A lot of people want to prove, is it poverty that causes incarceration or incarceration that leads to poverty? But in all honesty, it just doesn’t matter,” says Cadora. “It’s a circular, self-feeding kind of system and the important thing is to interrupt it. When you look at reentry and migration, you start to realize that criminal justice is not going to solve it.”
IT’S EASY to get to Brownsville, in central Brooklyn,by either crossing from lower Manhattan on one of the most famous bridges in the world or by taking the R train. But most people don’t want to come here. In the largest concentration of public housing in the U.S., people live on household incomes that average $8,000. One-third are unemployed.One out of every 10 males aged 16 to 25 is in prison.
It wasn’t always this bad.
“We had the best schools, the best stores,” said Greg Jackson, the executive director of the Brownsville Partnership, an outcrop of Common Ground, a homeless-prevention agency. He grew up in Brownsville in the ’50s.
“We had all of the bakeries, we had the delis, we had the movie houses, and all those things that are no longer here.”
People came from all over Brooklyn to shop on Pitkin Avenue, the main street. Then the first subsidized housing project — low-rise apartments called the Brownsville Houses— sprang up in the ’40s, and the rest stacked up like dominoes.
“The neighbourhood went from a tenement-driven neighbourhood to a project-driven neighbourhood,” says Jackson, 56. People moving to the projects “came from all over the city, all over the country.They didn’t have a trust for you and you lost that common bond.”
Many residents moved out, taking their family-run businesses with them.
Today, says Jackson, “the one business we have is that if your father went to jail, it’s likely you go to jail. That’s the only father-son business we have.”
When major rioting followed the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in 1968, Brownsville was torn up and never rebuilt.
“Places that you thought would be there forever when I was a kid never came back,” says Jackson.
Then came crack cocaine. During the ’80s, addicts lined up to buy the drug outside apartment buildings, and police patrolled without leaving their cars.
IF THERE IS a glimmer of hope in the community of 86,000 today, it comes from Jackson and the Brownsville Partnership.
The partnership, a non-profit organization funded by a philanthropist, offers parenting classes, prenatal instruction for first-time mothers, a visiting nurse program and high-school equivalency classes for two “million-dollar blocks.”
Jackson, a former NBA player, agreed to reopen and manage the city-run Brownsville Recreation Center (BRC) in 1997 after it was closed for six months because of gang violence. “The kids were running wild, they couldn’t control it,” says Jerry Childs, the centre’s deputy manager. Now it’s the mostused centre in Brooklyn. It has a weight room, workout equipment, computer labs, recording studios, a library and gym.
Jackson and Childs use basketball as a teaching tool, pre-empting clinics with career days, switching up gang members, and delaying tipoffs until teams can name state capitals.
Jackson doesn’t tolerate rule breakers.
“He got here, and he’s from Brownsville. ‘I know you, but I know your mother and your father and your uncle. I know everybody in your whole family.’ What’s a kid going to say?” asks Childs. “You can’t argue with him. You get caught and you’ll get put out.” In April, Jackson and Vincent Mattos, a case worker for the partnership, started going door-to-door to reach 150 young people in Brownsville that they know have committed armed robbery and live in 58 buildings run by the New York City Housing Authority.
Gretchen Dykstra, a senior consultant with the Brownsville Partnership, hopes Jackson will become “everybody’s uncle” and funnel kids to the partnership’s services.
“That’s the brilliance of Eric (Cadora’s) point,” says Dykstra. “Why spend all that money on building prisons and juvenile justice facilities when you can have things like the Brownsville Partnership?”
CADORA CREATED the first “money map” a decade ago, while working for the Centre for Alternative Sentencing and Employment Services, the largest alternative-to-incarceration program in the U.S.
Since then, 10 states have signed on to justice reinvestment, including Connecticut, which went from having one of the fastest-growing prison populations in the nation to one of the slowest. The plan calls for states to adopt five to 10 measures that will reduce prison populations and return the savings to communities most affected by crime and incarceration. Measures include paroling inmates on time — only 20 per cent of inmates are — or finding alternatives to prison for people who violate their probation.
“All of a sudden, you’ve got millions of dollars worth of solutions that aren’t necessarily any less safe than what you’re doing,” says Cadora, noting that none of the states that adopted the justice reform plan have experienced an increase in crime. “That caught on like wildfire.As we talk to state legislators and state executives, it gives them ways to rethink criminal justice policy with some political cover.”
Communities have used the money to create affordable and supportive housing for people returning from prison and to improve health and employment services.
Cadora, who founded the Justice Mapping Center three years ago, consults to the Council of State Governments, which leads the reinvestment program. He is also working with the New York Civil Liberties Union on a proposal to revise the state’s drug laws, which continue to send large numbers of Blacks and Hispanics to prison — groups that are overrepresented in high-incarceration neighbourhoods.
New York hasn’t signed on to justice reinvestment. The state’s prison population reached a high in the late 1990s, but dropped as the crack epidemic waned and New York City threw money into aggressive policing in high-crime areas.
Police are highly visible in Brownsville. At the Van Dyke Community Center — run by the New York City Housing Authority and just up the street from the BRC — cruisers are parked outside as police come and go.
Wanted posters for two suspected killers sit on a shelf in the lobby, close to where kids play and a grandmother warns outsiders to get out before dark.
But that’s not the message Greg Jackson wants to hear.
“We love each other in Brownsville.So the hope is still there. I tell my daughters and my sons that I’m paying for your education, that I want you to go and get this education, but I don’t want you to leave the neighbourhood. Not yet. You can leave later on. But come back and say, ‘let me save somebody’s life. Let me help somebody else.’ ” Contact the reporting team at

SCO and the Brownsville Partnership

As SCO works towards strengthening the community, another important factor is their ability to collaborate with our fellow community-based organizations. This year, SCO became part of the Brownsville Partnership, an initiative of Common Ground, to address the many issues that are associated with poverty in the high need Brownsville community. As a member of the Partnership, SCO is providing a full range of early childhood programs — Nurse-Family Partnership, Parent-Child Home and Baby & Me. SCO is the first NFP program in the New York City area to be part of a larger community-wide mission that brings together best practices in family and community development.

Brownsville Recreational Center & Playground

The Brownsville Recreation Center takes its name from the neighborhood that it serves. Brownsville, bounded by Eastern Parkway, Van Sinderen Avenue to the east, Linden Boulevard to the south, and Rockaway Parkway to the west, was first developed in 1865 by Charles S. Brown. Brown purchased a section of farm and meadowland and built 250 frame houses, hoping to lure the working class from lower Manhattan and western sections of Brooklyn to his modestly priced homes. Brown was certain that he would not be able to convince the bourgeoisie to relocate in “Brownsville,” as the area was to be called, because it was downwind of the odors from the marshes and bone-boiling factories of Jamaica Bay.

Brownsville’s development proceeded slowly, partly because it was difficult to get to. The neighborhood remained little more than a farming village until 1887. In that year, a Jewish real estate agent by the name of Aaron Kaplan purchased local lots, and built tenement housing, which attracted significant numbers of Jews seeking to escape the crowding of the Lower East Side. With the opening of the Fulton Street elevated railway (1889), followed by that of the Williamsburg Bridge (1903), the population of Brownsville ballooned, and by 1910, the neighborhood was filled with tenement apartment buildings. With no sewers or paved streets, and abounding in sweatshops and pushcarts, Brownsville began to look much like the lower Manhattan neighborhoods that its residents had sought to escape.

During the 1920s, with better access to rapid transit (the IRT extension in 1922), conditions in the area improved markedly, and the neighborhood prospered through the 1940s. Brownsville was a center of labor radicalism, supporting socialist candidates for public office throughout the first half of the 20th century. Margaret Sanger, a pioneer of women’s reproductive rights, opened America’s first birth control clinic at 46 Amboy Street in 1916. Aaron Copland, the composer, hailed from Brownsville, alongside writers such as Henry Roth and Alfred Kazin. Heavyweight champions Mike Tyson and Riddick Bowe also grew up in the area. Like many neighborhoods throughout the five boroughs, Brownsville experienced decline during the post-war years, however, a fresh wave of immigrants, particularly from Caribbean nations, has brought renewed vibrancy.

This recreation center, known initially as the Brownsville Boys’ Club, first opened in 1953, after years of planning by a group of civic-minded Brooklynites under the guidance of Abe Stark, President of the City Council of New York (later Brooklyn Borough President). The Brownsville Boys’ Club, originally a one-room clubhouse, was affiliated with the larger Boys & Girls Club of America (founded 1860). Through vigorous leadership, unceasing effort, and the public-spirited generosity of many sponsors, $1.5 million was raised to reopen the now updated club as a City Parks and Recreation facility. After a period of negotiation, this facility was bestowed as an official gift upon the City of New York on September 23, 1954, to re-open in January of 1955.

The recreation center benefited from major renovations projects throughout the late 1990s. In 1996, with $400,000 in funds from Borough President Howard Golden, general repairs were made to the center. In 1998, with funding from the mayor’s office, there was a $265,000 reconstruction of heating and air conditioning equipment on the roof. The roof of the center was fixed, and security lighting installed with another $1,060,000 in mayoral funds. In 2008 Brownsville Playground received $1.5 million in improvements, including a new turf field for athletics and a renovated playground. The athletic field was converted from asphalt to synthetic turf for softball, soccer, and football and new fencing, backstops, benches and drinking fountains were added. A second phase will install state-of-the-art recreational lights for nighttime play.

Council Member Darlene Mealy, Chair of the Contracts Committee

New York City Councilwoman Darlene Mealy is now the Chair of the New York City Council Contracts Committee formerly held by Councilwoman Letitia James. This committee oversees the Procurement Policy Board, review of City procurement policies and procedures, oversight over government contracts, Mayor's Office of Contracts, and collection agency contracts. Great things are happening in the Brownsville community as well as in and around BROOKLYN, USA.

Cameras To Boost Two Brooklyn Housing Projects’ Security

Cameras To Boost Two Brooklyn Housing Projects’ SecurityNY109/18/2009Jeanine Ramirez

All levels of government helped fund a multimillion-dollar initiative to make some Brooklyn housing projects safer. Borough reporter Jeanine Ramirez filed the following report.
Marie Boone talked Friday about the fear of being a victim of crime at the Tilden Houses in Brownsville.
“When you leave your home at 5 o’clock in the morning to go to work, you should not have to wonder, ‘Should I run down the stairs or should I ride the elevator?’” said Boone, the president of the Tilden Houses Tenants Association.
Members of the Tilden Houses Tenants Association voluntarily help patrol the eight-building complex as a safety measure, and soon they will getting high-tech aides in their effort - dozens of surveillance cameras.
“These volunteers will get many more eyes and ears. Our police officers will get many more eyes and ears by the cameras we’re going to install,” said Senator Charles Schumer.
The senator was in Brownsville Friday to announce he secured $400,000 in federal money for security cameras to be placed in Tilden Houses as well as the Brownsville Houses located across the street. Those funds come in addition to $2 million from Borough President Marty Markowitz and another $1 million from City Council member Darlene Mealy.
In total, $3.4 million will be spent on beefing up security at these two development complexes.
“We were thrilled to do it. Absolutely thrilled,” said Markowitz.
“I’m pretty sure it’s going to reduce the crime in the Brownsville Houses, which is just terrible,” said Brownsville Houses Tenants Association President Laura Morgan.
Both housing projects are part of what the NYPD calls its “Impact Zone,” developments with a high concentration of crime. Currently, 114 police officers from the 73rd Precinct currently patrol the area, but they will get help from the security cameras placed in building elevators, lobbies, mailbox areas, entrances and exits.
“The cameras are not just going to be facing inside but facing the streets on the outside,” said Brownsville resident Greg Jackson.
The New York City Housing Authority began installing cameras in its developments about five years ago. While 80 complexes citywide are equipped with the technology and have seen a decrease in crime, another 250 housing projects remain without.
“Every time we can add a development to our list, believe me, we’re making progress in an important cause,” said NYCHA Chairman John B. Rhea.
Tenants will start seeing cameras installed in November.