BROOKLYN — Greg "Jocko" Jackson, considered by many the unofficial mayor of Brownsville, died Tuesday at the age of 60 from an apparent heart attack, city officials said.
Jackson, a Brownsville native who played in the NBA for the New York Knicks and Phoenix Suns, never forgot his community. He became the director of the Brownsville Recreation Center in 1997, turning the Parks Department facility into a neighborhood hub where he mentored countless young people.
By creating a strong sports program and offering other classes, such as music engineering, Jackson turned the rec center into a place where kids wanted to be and many credited with helping keep them off the streets.
Jackson suffered an apparent heart attack while at the Parks Department’s Brooklyn headquarters in Prospect Park, city officials said. He was taken to New York Methodist Hospital, where he died.
"Under Greg’s leadership, the Brownsville Recreation Center played host to world-renowned events and served as inspiration for the young men and women who passed through its doors," Mayor Michael Bloomberg said in a statement.
"His work will live on in the lives of those he deeply touched," Bloomberg said. "On behalf of all New Yorkers, our thoughts and prayers are with his family — including his wife Carmen and his nine children — during this difficult time.”
Jackson was also the founder of the neighborhood's beloved "Old Timers" event, a weeklong celebration that brings together generations of residents past and present. He also worked on civic issues with Common Ground's Brownsville Partnership.
Jackson was most recently considering a bid for City Council in 2009, but backed out after term limits were extended. He ran unsuccessfully against Councilman Charles Barron eight years before that.
"I am deeply saddened by the sudden passing of a true Brooklynite and ‘angel of mercy,'’' Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz said in a statement. "Jocko was so much a part of Brownsville — and Brownsville so much a part of him — that it was hard to separate the two."
Markowitz has proposed renaming the Brownsville Recreation Center in Jackson's honor.
"When you wanted something done in the community, he was the man," Markowitz said. "Jocko was a wonderful, wonderful, wonderful human being who will be deeply missed not only in Brooklyn, but throughout New York City."