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Same Old Purpose, Young New Faces

Nov 13, 2008 12:59 PM | 0 comments

During a Brooklyn Connections class visit, students from Teachers Prep asked to look at historic images from their neighborhood, Brownsville.  Pulling out this 1953 photograph from the Brooklyn Eagle, I hoped that a picture of young people would help students draw connections to their own lives.  I had no idea how close those connections would be: "Hey! I know this place."  "Look! It's the Rec Center!"  "Isn't that the BRC??"  "We hang out there all the time!"

The Brownsville Boys Club was founded by a group of teenageers in 1940.  At the time, Brownsville was a predominantly Jewish neighborhood that lacked a community center.  The club originally coordinated activities at libraries and school gymnasiums.  By 1953, they had their own clubhouse - the opening of which is shown in this photograph.  But within a year the community was changing.  A new wave of African Americans and Caribbean immigrants was moving in.  The organizers relazied their Jewish-based center was becoming obsolete, so they handed over hte clubhouse to the City Parks Department. 

Although it continued to serve the needs of the community, a lack of city funding allowed the renamed Brownsville Recreation Center to fall into disrepair.  After receiveing an $8.7 million renovation, the Center began a new life in 1991.  The refurbished building included an indoor pool, gymnasium, fitness room, dance studio, performance space, computer center, and outdoor playground.  Today, the Center's employees, like the original Boys Club organizers, are residents of Brownsville who believe young people in the neighborhood deserve a safe place to play.

Over the years, the ethnic makeup of Brownsville has changes, butthe need for a recreational haven has stayed the same.  Children and teenagers rely on the Center's presence - drawing a connection between the youth of the past and the youth of today.  For more information o the Brownsville Recreation Center, check out the New York City Parks Department or the Brooklyn Collection's clipping files.