Betsy Head Playground in Brownsville Is Getting a Much-Needed Renovation

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Albert Samaha
Betsy Head Park, across the street from Betsy Head Playground in Brownsville, BK
For years now, some Brownsville locals kept their kids away from Betsy Head Playground. One father, James, walked by the playground with his nine-year-old son one day over the summer. It was a nice, warm, bright day, and as father and son walked down Dumont Avenue, two boys inside the playground started calling the son's name.

"Can I go play with them?" the son asked James.

"Nah, not today," said James. "We gotta get home."

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Brownsville's Mo Better Jaguars Open Pop Warner Season With Dominant Win

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Albert Samaha
After weeks of tackling drills and wind sprints, the season has finally begun.
Last year was a lean one for the Mo Better Jaguars Pop Warner program of Brownsville, Brooklyn. As we chronicled in a November feature story, the 2013 season was the first time none of the program's teams made the playoffs. But while it was a down year, it did not lack flashes of hope.

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Brownsville Pop Warner Team Finds New Home Field

Categories: Brownsville

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Christopher Farber
Mo Better played some of its home games at Fort Hamilton HS last year.
The Mo Better Jaguars, the only Pop Warner program based in Brooklyn, used to play its home games at Betsy Head Park in Brownsville. Hundreds of locals would circle the field to watch games, filling the track and the handball courts. Then, several years ago, Pop Warner officials ruled the Betsy Head Park was unfit for competition. The field was rock-hard, dusty, weedy, and pocked by divots.

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Two Pop Warner Football Alums from Brownsville Gunned Down in One Month

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Albert Samaha
"Yo, is it true about Kameron?" Vick Davis asked the other coaches when he arrived at Brownsville's Betsy Head Park on a Monday evening in early June.

It was, replied Chris Legree, head coach of the Mo Better Jaguars youth football program. Kameron had been killed the previous Friday. He had been shot a few blocks away from the park. He was 22-years-old.

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Easter Eggs and a Subway Tragedy at Brownsville's Betsy Head Park

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Albert Samaha
The day began warm, bright, and joyful.
Plastic eggs dotted Betsy Head Park's dusty field. A marching band boomed and a dance team grooved. The afternoon was warm and the smoke from the grill dissolved into a clear blue sky. It was the day before Easter Sunday and scores of people gathered at the park for the neighborhood Easter egg hunt.

The Mo Better Jaguars, a youth football team based in Brownsville, had just finished a workout. Players leaned against a fence taking in the festivities. Coaches relaxed under a tree near the park's entrance, striking up conversations with passing youngsters, asking if they were interested in joining the team.

Then a woman walked up to the coaches, her face panicked and her voice shaking. "Girl jumped in front of the train. Just now," she said, pointing at the elevated tracks above the park. "You could see her leg. She was all cut up."


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Hitchhiking With Mike Tyson and Hooky Parties With Shannon Briggs

Categories: Brownsville

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Christopher Farber
Brownsville has been known for its boxers. Tough, relentless sluggers. The community takes pride in its old sons, passing down stories and memories, keeping the earliest stages of their legacies alive.

The coaches for the Mo Better Jaguars -- subjects of this week's cover story -- lived at the center of some of those stories.

Mike Tyson, for instance. Chris Legree's cousin, Kenny, a boxer himself, used to hang out with Tyson back in the day. "Little Mike" was the runt of the crew, Kenny Legree recalls, a "snotty-nose" nine-year-old hanging with a bunch of teens.

"Lemme tell you what we used to do with Mike Tyson ..."

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The Day Sean "Diddy" Combs Came to Brownsville to Watch a Pop Warner Game

Categories: Brownsville

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Christopher Farber
The way Chris Legree remembers it, Sean "Diddy" Combs's people called him almost every day for a week in the fall of 2002. The Mo Better Jaguars -- the Pop Warner program Legree founded and the subject of this week's cover story had an upcoming match-up against the Mount Vernon Razor Backs. Combs's son was on the 12-to-15-year-old Midget team and he planned to come down to Brownsville's Betsy Head Park to watch the game.

But there was the matter of logistics and security, of course, so the hip-hop mogul's team had many questions for Legree. Eventually he passed them the phone number to his sister, an NYPD officer whom he assigned to handle security for the big game.

Although Mo Better had only been around for six years, the program had developed a fierce rivalry with Mount Vernon. Mount Vernon was a Pop Warner powerhouse and the programs had had a string of cold, competitive regional playoff battles.

So there was already a buzz at the park when the black SUV pulled up five or ten minutes before kick-off. It didn't draw much attention.

"It's a big game, everybody anticipating," Legree recalls. "Everybody's looking at them field."

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Brownsville's Curtis Stevens Stands Between Gennady Golovkin and Boxing Stardom

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Gennady Golovkin, the champion middleweight boxer from Kazakhstan, has knocked out the last 14 men he's faced. He's won all 27 of his professional fights, and in only three of them did his opponent reach the final bell still on his feet.

He's a chiseled, relentless punching machine with power in both hands and arms like pistons. Anyone who's watched him in the ring has seen the talent. But he's fought in America just three times, and he's yet to square off against a grade-A foe. In other words, he's at that step in a boxer's career where the promotional hype machine begins plow a path toward the pay-per-view mega-fights.

Now, a giant poster of his face hangs in Times Square. He's come to New York, like millions of others, to become a star. On Saturday night he headlines HBO's boxing card at Madison Square Garden.

And that's where Brownsville's Curtis Stevens comes in.

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Election Night At Brownsville's Betsy Head Park

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Google Earth
Betsy Head Park in the daytime.
The parents sat along the long green benches at Betsy Head Park in Brownsville, watching their sons' Pop Warner football practice. Some discussed the kids' game on Sunday--that fumble at the end of the second half changed everything! Some flipped through newspapers. Some munched on sour candy.

Then came a loud noise from the street. It was mumbled and static-y, as if from an AM station just out of range. Heads turned to see a black van with a speaker on the roof slowly cruising by.

Somethingsomethingsomething vote for suchandsuch! Somethingsomethingsomething vote for suchandsuch!

A woman in a white shirt turned toward the older lady next to her.

"If we could understand it, that would be nice," she said with a grin.

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Bloomberg on Stop and Frisk: "Should be Amended, Not Ended"

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This must have been awkward.

Earlier this morning, in front of a Sunday congregation at an African-American church in Brownsville, Brooklyn, the Hozziner defended the NYPD's increasingly controversial "stop and frisk" policy. With its policy's biggest fan, Commissioner Ray Kelly, in the front row of the church, the Mayor argued that the intense use of stop and frisk is lowering the crime rate in a neighborhood, which the NYPD has designated as an "Impact Zone," that has one of the highest in all of New York City. 

And, if anything, the policy that stopped 160,581 New Yorkers in 2011 "should be amended, not ended."

As the Voice has reported in the past, the targets of stop and frisk are overwhelmingly black, Hispanic and innocent so something about Bloomberg telling a community that is 70.8% black and 19.1% Hispanic that this policy's "pros" outweigh the cons we have all read about is a tad uncomfortable.

 Also, what could one change about the stop and frisk policy without ending it all together?
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