Greg Jackson's Brownsville

May 18, 2012

We Pay Tribute to One of Brooklyn's Great Community Leaders

This week we’re hearing a lot about heroes returning home to Brooklyn—Barbra Streisand will perform her first-ever concert in the borough a week before Jimmy Kimmel hosts a week of late night talk at BAM Harvey in October. But some of our heroes never left Brooklyn, dedicating their personal and professional lives to doing good right here. Like Greg Jackson.

Greg was a superstar—and not just because of his jump shot, which made him a college basketball champ and earned him a spot with the Knicks in 1974. The neighborhood of Brownsville was just as important to Greg as basketball, and it’s there that Greg dedicated himself to making the struggling community stronger.

On May 1, Greg passed away from a sudden heart attack at age 60. His life was taken far too early, yet he had much to be proud of in how he spent his years.

When Greg joined the staff of the Brownsville Recreation Center in the mid 1980s, it needed a lot of help. So did Brownsville.

Under Greg’s leadership (he became the center’s manager in 1997) the building underwent a massive renovation, which included removing the bulletproof glass and turnstile at the entrance. It is now a community hive, serving 1,000+ adults and kids each day, and its facilities are among the best in the city, with a full-length pool, computer room, music rooms, and homework rooms.

Yet outside the center’s walls, the community still wrestles with some of the City’s highest poverty rates, poorest schools, and widespread unemployment:
  • 1 in 5 residents between ages 16 and 25 is not in school and not working.
  • The median household income is $26,000.
  • The foreclosure rate is nearly 3x that of Brooklyn on the whole. 
  • 29 percent of residents were stopped by police in 2011.

Greg loved sports and saw it as a key way of keeping local youth connected to their communities, out of trouble, and on the path to higher education. But he also understood the overwhelming pressures they faced outside the center, in their housing projects, and the hallways of their failing schools.

In 2008, Greg became a founding director of Community Solutions’ Brownsville Partnership, an innovative effort to prevent homelessness and keep Brownsville families on their feet. Through his activism, the Brownsville Partnership is now 14-partners strong, covering every aspect of community life in Brownsville, including health, housing, education, violence reduction, and local advocacy—to be a united force for positive change to work with residents to re-imagine their neighborhood.

“In 30 years of working in community development, I’ve never met a leader like Greg,” said Community Solution’s Executive Director Rosanne Haggerty. “He immediately embraced the idea of the Brownsville Partnership and wanted to be part of it. We couldn’t have gotten a foothold in the neighborhood without him. He brought together partners and identified for us key problems. He built the foundation for our work.” The organization is now developing a “Greg’s List,” an inventory of the remaining work Greg wanted done in the community.  

Greg’s legacy will carry on through the organizations he partnered with and the causes he championed. The Brooklyn Community Foundation dedicates our work in Brownsville in Greg’s honor, and invites you to join us in giving back, just as he did each and every day.

Our Brooklyn, Our Brownsville

Here are a few highlights of our grantmaking to support innovative nonprofit work in the neighborhood through our Community Development and Caring Neighbors funds:

 Community Solutions: $25,000 to support the community organizing work of the Brownsville Partnership.

 Brownsville Multi-Service Family Health Center (BMS): $25,000 to support a partnership between BMS and Northeast Brooklyn Housing Development Corporation (NEBHDCo), a developer of affordable housing, to lead a community-based collaborative to redevelop the long vacant PS 125 building at 635 Rockaway Avenue for senior housing and a community wellness center.

Center for Court Innovation: $25,000 to support the Brownsville Community Justice Center for youth arrested for delinquency and low-level criminal offenses.

Above: Brooklyn Community Foundation President Marilyn Gelber and new Habitat-NYC homeowner and Brownsville resident Ricardo Vasquez.

 Habitat for Humanity: Our support helped create the “urban Habitat model,” which has led to more than 100 new homes in Central Brooklyn—most recently in Brownsville with the opening of Habitat-NYC’s St. John’s Residences, enabling twelve low-income families to become home-owners.

 Neighbors Together: $20,000 for the soup kitchen, which also seeks to empower its members to become vital actors in its ongoing work to end hunger and poverty.
The Brooklyn of today was built on the shoulders of giants like Greg. Without their commitment and perseverance, our borough’s lights wouldn’t be shining so brightly, beckoning others home. 

What's "Good" in Brooklyn

Here are a few highlights of news and events we’ve shared with our followers this week. Don’t miss a thing! Like us at and follow us at

North Brooklyn Volunteer Fair
Join us tomorrow at the McCarren Park Farmers Market from 10am to 2pm to learn about terrific community service opportunities with innovative nonprofit organizations in Greenpoint and Williamsburg, including our grantees El Puente and St. Nick's Alliance. Stop by our table to get a preview of our soon-to-be-launched Brooklyn volunteer website,! Details.

It's NY Writers Coalition Day!
Celebrate the 10th Anniversary of our Arts for All Fund grantee partner with free writers' workshops in all five boroughs today, including stops at Lefferts Historic House, Brooklyn Bridge Park, and the Coney Island USA Museum. Schedule and locations here.

Calling All Nonprofits: Brooklyn's Volunteers Need You
The Brooklyn Community Foundation will officially launch a new Brooklyn-centric volunteer initiative the first week of June at (explore the beta site until then). We're matching Brooklynites with volunteer opportunities at innovative nonprofits across our 70 neighborhoods. At this time, we're asking all nonprofits and community associations with volunteer needs to register on the site and post opportunities. To get started, email