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Basketball Court to be Named for Notorious B.I.G. Despite Controversy

 The basketball court at Crispus Attucks Playground will be named after the Notorious B.I.G.
The basketball court at Crispus Attucks Playground will be named after the Notorious B.I.G.
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CLINTON HILL — The city has approved a bid to name a neighborhood basketball court after hometown hero Christopher Wallace, aka Notorious B.I.G., according to a Parks Department spokeswoman.

The blacktop court at Crispus Attucks Playground, located at on Fulton Street at Classon Avenue, will be named in honor of the late rap star, in what Councilman Robert Cornegy said will fulfill a promise he made to Biggie’s mom.

“Christopher Wallace’s music put Bedford-Stuyvesant on the map in a billion dollar global industry,” said Cornegy, who brought the proposal to Community Board 2 last month. “I promised his mother, Ms. Voletta Wallace, I would preserve his legacy, so naming this park after him seems very fitting.”

The renaming of the court is expected to be made official in early August, according to a spokesman for Cornegy.

The approval by the Parks Department comes after a contentious debate at Community Board 2, at which detractors argued that Biggie’s lyrics about drug dealing and violence and disparaging comments about women made him an unfit role model for the young people who play at the court.

“When we name something, we’re saying this is somebody we should respect or want to emulate,” said Lucy Koteen, who arrived at the June 19 meeting with fliers printed with lyrics she found objectionable. “Would we name it Al Capone Basketball Court? Would we name it after Bernie Madoff?”

Koteen, a former public member of the board’s Transportation Committee, in 2013 opposed the renaming of the corner of St. James Place and Fulton Street "Christopher Wallace Way" because the rapper was “too fat."

This time, however, the proposal successfully made its way through the board, with the executive committee recommending the renaming.

In the wake of that meeting, Shirley McRae, the chair of Community Board 2, said she understood objections to Biggie’s lyrics, but said his contributions to hip-hop and his international recognition made her support the proposal.

“I have a son who was growing up around that time and he was not allowed to listen to that music in my house,” she said. “But look at The Beatles, they were considered a bad influence but look at the impact they made. You may not like the man or what you assume he stood for, but he set the stage for a whole ‘nother generation of musicians to step up artistically.”