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‘We Are Brownsville’ – Icons featured in new 60-foot mural

Portraits of icons from Brownsville were unveiled Saturday as part of a 60-foot mural.
“We Are Brownsville” is written at the top of the mural that features Mike Tyson, Sandra Baker Fortune and 15 other local legends.
“I wanted little Black, brown and colored children to walk past this every day and see this and say, ‘Wow this person looks like me,’” says artist William Ellis.
There were activities for children, a DJ and food at the celebration of the unveiling.
Ellis says the iconic figures were chosen very carefully and that the legends on the mural are who put Brownsville on the map in a positive light.
Chess Grandmaster Maurice Ashley said on Twitter it was an honor to be included in the piece and that, “Destiny is blind to ZIP codes.”

Sep 14, 2022
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City and Partners honor Brownsville history with mural unveiling and community celebration at Van Dyke III

BROOKLYN, NY – The New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) and Trinity Financial today unveiled a mural at the Van Dyke III apartments showcasing community leaders whose roots are in the Brownsville neighborhood.

The formal unveiling of the 60-foot by 20-foot mural – located at the northeast face of the building – was part of an all-day community celebration that also featured the ribbon cutting for a newly renovated outdoor basketball court as well as chess matches, a DJ, games for children and other activities.

“We are excited to join the Van Dyke community today to celebrate the unveiling of the ‘We Are Brownsville’ Mural and the completed renovations of the basketball court. These investments provide the community with inspirational spaces to play, have active, healthy lives and to see reminders of strong community members from the Brownsville neighborhood,” said Jonathan Gouveia, Executive Vice President for Real Estate Development at NYCHA. “This project is an example of how we can leverage design to better connect our residents to each other and their community. Congratulations to our residents and partner team, Trinity Financial.”

Designed in 2021 and installed on June 6, 2022, artist William “GoodWill” Ellis painted 17 of Brownsville’s most inspiring role models throughout modern Brooklyn history, including civil rights activist Rosetta Gaston, actor/author Bern Nadette Stanis, chess grandmaster Maurice Ashley and boxing champions Mike TysonRiddick Bowe and Eddie Mustafa Muhammad.

“As a proud son of Brownsville, I am thrilled that the ‘We Are Brownsville’ mural will showcase the rich history of this vibrant community,” said New York City Mayor Eric Adams. “This new mural, and the recreational spaces that will accompany it, underscore our commitment to uplifting NYCHA residents while reminding them there is no limit to what they can achieve.”

“The history of the Brownsville neighborhood is rich with remarkable figures across so many areas of achievement,” said Thomas Brown, Vice President of Development at Trinity Financial, who oversees the company’s New York operations. “This mural at Van Dyke III is an inspiration to Brooklyn and all of New York City. It’s important that the children and families who live at Van Dyke know that anything is possible. ‘GoodWill’ Ellis has created a breathtaking reminder of that truth: one that these families will experience every day.”

“The ‘We Are Brownsville’ mural is a fitting tribute as we celebrate the partnerships that are bringing affordable housing and greater opportunities to the individuals and families of the Brownsville community,” said HDC President Eric Enderlin. “Thanks to our partners and elected officials for their many contributions to this impactful project.”

William “GoodWill” Ellis uses his love of community to create multi-sensory experiential art. With Caribbean ancestry, Will was born and raised in Brooklyn and spent many years living, working and serving in areas like Bed Stuy, Ocean Hill, Brownsville, East New York, Crown Heights and Flatbush.

The portraits are featured under the message “We are Brownsville,” and also include: Greg “Jocko” Jackson – a Brownsville community leader and former NBA player with the Phoenix Suns and NY Knicks; Sandra Baker Fortune – founder of the Jazzy Jumpers Double Dutch jump rope team; retired NFL linebacker and Super Bowl XX champion Otis Wilson; Lisa C. Caldwell-Linder – Quinnipiac College women’s basketball legend; Brian Flores – NFL assistant coach with the Super Bowl LIII champion New England Patriots; Brooklyn basketball legend and former NBA player Dwayne “Pearl” Washington; champion middleweight boxer Daniel Jacobs; Brownsville activist and community leader (and Van Dyke I resident) Lisa Kenner; New York Yankees standout and six-time World Series champion Willie Randolph; former NBA player World B. Free; and legendary Thomas Jefferson High School football coach Moe Finkelstein.

“This is an incredible project that provides housing as well as inspirational art for the NYCHA campus. The ‘We Are Brownsville’ mural is a beautiful addition to Van Dyke Houses and will show the young NYCHA residents that they can be anything they dream of,” said New York City Chief Housing Officer Jessica Katz. “Trinity and NYCHA have worked closely together to deliver much needed housing and site improvements to ensure the new building didn’t leave the NYCHA residents behind. These collaborative projects are a great sign of the work we can continue to do in the coming years to improve resident quality of life at NYCHA while also expanding our housing supply. Congratulations to the teams for such a great job well done.”

“I am thrilled that Van Dyke III residents will step outside and see reminders of what’s possible. This mural depicts community achievers and leaders that moved Brownsville forward and became role models to future generations,” said Alicka Ampry-Samuel, HUD Regional Administrator for New York and New Jersey. “Congratulations to artists William “GoodWill” Ellis and Sophia Dawson for their contributions; their artwork will inspire Brownsville residents for years to come.”

“Pouring strategic investments and time into any community will always yield positive results,” said Brooklyn Borough President Antonio Reynoso. “Seeing a community come together and share in so many activities and celebration of culture and history will always leave a positive impact on our families. Thank you to all of our partners that have made this possible.”

“Our Brownsville family has witnessed many impeccable men and women walk from our streets straight into history throughout our lives. I am so pleased our community has elected to honor these great heroes through the immaculate and immense ‘We Are Brownsville’ mural, courtesy of one of our most esteemed artists, ‘GoodWill’ Ellis,” said Congresswoman Yvette D. Clarke (NY-09). “With this installation and its complimentary new community spaces, we will shape the future of Brownsville by looking into its past. On behalf of all who call our community home, thank you to every individual who made this progress possible.”

“I’m excited for the unveiling of the ‘We Are Brownsville’ mural at Van Dyke III. It is a much needed reminder of the community’s long and storied history. It provides visual inspiration to young people in Brownsville — from the depiction of Mother Gaston to Dwayne “Pearl” Washington to boxing champions to Bern Nadette Stanis, who will forever be Thelma from ‘Good Times’ to me. The images on the mural should send a message to everyone who sees it: Anything is possible. Kudos to the artist, William ‘GoodWill’ Ellis,” said Assemblywoman Latrice Walker.

The Van Dyke community basketball court has been in use since 2021 but was formally opened with a ribbon cutting at the mural unveiling. The court features artwork by Sophia Dawson and was painted by Project Backboard with the assistance of residents and other members of the community. It is also part of an initiative by the National Sports Zone Foundation that helps build communities through athletics, and Mega Contracting Group donated and installed new backboards and rims. Prior to the court painting, NYC Department of Environmental Protection and NYCHA partnered to install a subsurface retention system underneath the court that will capture approximately 230,000 gallons of stormwater annually.

Staff from the onsite Community Center, and the Van Dyke III retail space services – including the Friends of Crown Heights Early Childhood Education Center, CAMBA, and the BMS Community Health Clinic & Wellness Center, also participated in the day-long celebration.

Van Dyke III is a 12-story, mixed-use, 100 percent affordable housing community located within NYCHA’s Van Dyke development, which consists of 23 residential buildings. The project was financed with funding from the NYC Department of Housing Preservation and Development and the NYC Housing Development Corporation and includes 180 permanently affordable apartments for extremely low and low-income households, including 54 supportive housing units, and one superintendent’s unit.

Building amenities at Van Dyke III include a computer lab, a fitness room, a tenant lounge, a community room, an accessible roof deck, a children’s playroom, package delivery room, and a ground floor outdoor recreational area.

Sep 14, 2022
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