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Marbury to lead Coney charge

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Sources say a proposal to build an amateur athletics facility in Coney Island will be partially funded by one of the area’s native sons, Knicks point-guard Stephon Marbury.

Councilman Domenic Recchia, who represents Coney Island, said that he, Council Speaker Gifford Miller, the Stephon Marbury Foundation and the Bloomberg administration are in talks for what Recchia called a “rec center” in Coney Island.

“Everyone’s in Athens right now and so when they get back we’ll continue talking,” said Recchia, referring to Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Deputy Mayor Dan Doctoroff, who are in Greece to promote their efforts to host the 2012 Olympics, and Marbury, who is on the U.S. men’s basketball team.

“Because of the Olympics, everything got pushed back a little bit,” he added.

Asked when he last spoke to Marbury, the councilman said, “I talk to Stephon all the time. I talked to him last week.”

Sheryl Robertson, a friend of the Marbury family and director of the South Brooklyn Youth Consortium, confirmed that the three-time All-Star had expressed interest in sponsoring the project, which is back on the drawing board, albeit on a smaller scale than envisioned a decade ago, following a commitment from the mayor.

The project would likely be built after construction on a proposed professional basketball arena in Downtown Brooklyn is completed.

“I heard about it three months ago,” said Robertson, who is also a member of the Coney Island Development Corporation, which will unveil plans in October for the future redevelopment of the neighborhood, which over the past two decades has suffered a sharp decline, but has recently seen a summer upsurge with the constuction of Keyspan Park for the Brooklyn Cyclones baseball team.

Assemblywoman Adele Cohen, who represents Coney Island, said philanthropy is nothing new for Marbury, 27, who starred at Lincoln High School in Coney Island before being drafted by the Minnesota Timberwolves in 1996.

Cohen said that about four years ago, Marbury teamed up with the Rev. Eric Miller to aid in repairing the Beulah Church of Christ on Mermaid Avenue.

“He’s been very generous not only with our church, but with all the churches in Coney Island,” Miller said this week.
In 2001, said Cohen, she and the ballplayer contributed to a basketball league for kids run by one of Marbury’s brothers on Mermaid Avenue.

“It shows his roots,” Cohen said of his work in the Coney Island community.

Marbury grew up in the Surfside Gardens housing project on West 31st Street at Mermaid Avenue. This past season he was traded to the Knicks, injecting some life into the otherwise listless team down the stretch and playing near home for the first time since he was traded by the New Jersey Nets for Jason Kidd three years ago. He led the Knicks in scoring.

Because few details have been revealed about the planned amateur athletics facility, which replaces larger plan once called Sportsplex, it is unclear how much money the 6-foot-2 athlete will invest. Also unclear is how many private investors may be involved.

Jennifer Falk, a spokeswoman for Bloomberg, would not confirm whether Marbury or other investors were involved in the plan, but said that the facility would be partially funded from a portion of the money once earmarked for Sportsplex.

Before plans for that facility were dashed, the city and state had secured $30 million each for the project and then-Borough President Howard Golden added $7 million from his budget. Earlier this year, a spokeswoman for Borough President Marty Markowitz confirmed that the money was still on the table.

“I can confirm that any alternate proposal would include partial funding from the previously proposed Sportsplex,” said Falk.
Until its demise, the plan for a 12,000-seat amateur Sportsplex rose and fell on the fortunes of other development projects and at the whims of political fancy.

First boosted by Golden in 1987, the facility was to include an NCAA-regulation basketball court and a 200-meter, eight-lane running track.

But chances that the arena would see the light of day diminished with former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani’s piqued interest in bringing professional baseball to Brooklyn, and his feud with Golden over which project should be a priority. When Keyspan Park was finally built in 2001, many believed plans for the amateur facility had finally been dashed.

But the plan was granted a second life when organizers for the city’s 2012 Olympics bid included it as a venue in their original proposal. Earlier this month, however, indoor volleyball, which was slated to be held in Coney Island, was shifted to Continental Airlines Arena in New Jersey. Gymnastics were shifted to the arena developer Bruce Ratner wants to build for his recently purchased Nets.
Many close to the plans believe an alternative project will serve the area all the same.

“It’s clear that the administration realizes that there’s still a need for sports and recreation for young people in Coney Island,” said Kenneth Adams, president of the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce and the Brooklyn Sports Foundation, which formulated the original Sportsplex plan.

“It’s not about Sportsplex anymore, or dog-eared architectural plans,” said Adams. “It’s about meeting the needs of a year-round sports and recreational facility.”


Updated 4:00 pm, November 10, 2010
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