By Juan Soto
The Baisley Park Houses in South Jamaica have become a training ground for the next LeBron James — again.
Last Friday the once dilapidated basketball court and playground was officially opened and transformed into a new repaved basketball court.
The redevelopment of the recreational facility cost about $600,000.
Built in 1961, the basketball court kept its original concrete floor until this renovation. But the backboards were changed once in 1999.
“Everyone from southeast Queens used to come to play at Baisely,” said A.U. Hogan, president of the Baisley Houses Tenants’ Association. “Mark Jackson came here to play ball from two miles away,” he added, referring to the NBA coach and onetime New York Knicks player.
Hogan also said that James Carter, who later played for the Puerto Rico national team in the 1990s, played basketball at Baisely as a kid.
Carter played against Michael Jordan and the rest of the U.S. squad in the 1994 Goodwill Games at Madison Square Garden.
“He [Carter] lived in the building right in front of the courts,” Hogan said. “I taught him to play when he was 11.”
The money for the renovation of the basketball court and the playground was allocated “through the collective efforts” of City Councilman Ruben Wills (D-Jamaica), state Asemblywoman Vivian Cook (D-Jamaica), the New York City Housing Authority and residents of the eight-building housing complex.
“The people of Baisley have long deserved a space like the one we unveiled,” Wills said. “They hadn’t seen improvements to their recreation area for over a generation, and that type of decay causes too many of our youth to be indifferent to their community’s care.”
The groundbreaking for the construction of the redesigned basketball court was in April.
“This restoration is about more than basketball and benches,” the lawmaker said. “ It’s about restoring their accountability for their own community’s preservation.”
The new basketball court has a new chain link fencing, benches, posts, fiberglass backboards, hoops and waste bins.
The children and young men of the Baisley Park Houses are already enjoying the modern and colorful playground that includes a water sprinkler and protective surfacing.
“This is a perfect example of what collective action between a community, its elected representatives, and its government can achieve when united in common cause,” Cook said.
Kids from the housing complex and the surrounding neighborhood attended the ribbon cutting ceremony presided over by Wills, Cook and Hogan.
“This new court means a lot for the kids,” said Hogan. “In the old court, people got injured, there was gravel.”
The Baisley Houses used to hold basketball tournaments every year until 2004.
“Now, with the new court, we will organize tournaments once again,” Hogan said.
Reach reporter Juan Soto by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-260-4564.