Thursday, April 8, 2010

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.
crichardson@nydailynews.com

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