But some of our heroes never left Brooklyn, dedicating their personal and professional lives to doing good right here. On such person is 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, 2012, 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 more than 1,000 adults and kids every day. Its facilities are among the best in the city, with a full-length pool, computer room, music rooms, and homework rooms.
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 through 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.