“Two heads are better than one,” goes the old adage.
At Community Solutions, we’ve spent a lot of time thinking about collaboration. How can we bring disparate parties together and establish opportunities to ideate and take action around the most pressing challenges facing communities across the country and around the world? Again and again, we’ve seen that ideas become more powerful when they’re mixed with, pushed by, and built upon the ideas of others.
In Brownsville, Brooklyn, we’re making a big bet on collaboration by establishing the Gregory Jackson Center for Brownsville, a brand new community hub that officially opens its doors today.
The Center is named in honor of Gregory “Jocko” Jackson. The community advocate was a former NBA player and Brownsville native who returned to live in the neighborhood and mentor local youth before his unexpected death in 2012. He was also the founding director of our Brownsville Partnership.
“Greg Jackson loved to ask people, ‘Who are you going to help today?’ This building is a response to that question,” said Rosanne Haggerty, president of Community Solutions. “The Gregory Jackson Center for Brownsville will provide a space for Brownsville residents and organizations to help each other and to work on improving Brownsville together. We couldn’t be prouder to open the Center in Greg’s memory and to dedicate it to carrying on his legacy.”
The state of the art community hub will house several social service organizations, including SCO Family of Services and the Brownsville Community Justice Center, as well as Community Solutions’ Brownsville Partnership and staff from our local open-air marketplace, MGB POPS. By the end of the summer, the building will host an employment center planned as a one-stop shop for resume development, interview preparation and job fairs – a key resource that has been missing in this neighborhood where 44% of working age residents are out of the workforce.
In Brownsville, it isn’t just smart or convenient to co-locate community resources, it’s also critical to positively shifting outcomes for residents of the neighborhood. Home to the largest concentration of public housing in New York City, Brownsville has long suffered from a deeply fragmented social welfare system. Residents in crisis often struggle to navigate a bureaucratic network of service agencies and public institutions, many of which have historically little communication or connection with one another. The Gregory Jackson Center for Brownsville will provide an important tool for combatting that fragmentation and will push the concept of the community center a few steps forward.
But Brownsville doesn’t merely need a better integrated version of the resources it already has; it needs a new, de-bureaucratized framework in which residents, businesses, nonprofits, and public agencies can collaborate around local challenges– a framework in which everyone is a problem solver.
That’s why the Gregory Jackson Center preserves dedicated flex space on the ground floor to host regular community problem solving sessions around issues like neighborhood crime and safety, unemployment, school absenteeism, and access to healthy food. Since the building’s preliminary opening in March, residents and local advocates have already planned over 40 events open to the community, and much more programing is on the way.
The Gregory Jackson Center for Brownsville was developed by Community Solutions with backing from the Brooklyn Borough President’s Office and NYCEDC. Funding was also made available by the Low Income Investment Fund, Cisco Systems, Stavros Niarchos Foundation, Booth Ferris Foundation, and The Hearst Foundations.