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Courts in session: City, Nets athletes debut new basketball facilities at Gowanus park

Brooklyn Paper
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Photo gallery

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Starstruck: Kids waited patiently during the ribbon-cutting ceremony before trying out the new courts.
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Shiny and new: City officials and some Brooklyn Nets athletes on Friday unveiled new basketball courts in Gowanus’s Nicholas Naquan Heyward Jr. Park, the play spaces’ first renovation in more than 20 years.
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On the ball: Youngsters tested out the new court after the ribbon cutting.
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Proud papa: Nicholas Heyward Sr., the father of Nicholas Naquan Heyward Jr. — who the city named the Wyckoff Street park for years after a policeman fatally shot the teen — spoke about his son at the ceremony.

These new courts are a slam dunk!

Some of Brooklyn’s tallest athletes joined city leaders and local youngsters at a Dec. 1 ribbon-snipping ceremony for two revamped basketball courts inside a Gowanus park named after a hoops-loving neighborhood teen who police fatally shot more than 20 years ago. And watching Brooklyn Nets superstars who play in the nearby Barclays Center remember the sports fan’s life was an honor, according to the boy’s dad.

“It actually means a lot to me knowing that I am getting support from the likes of the Barclays Center and the Brooklyn Nets,” said Nicholas Heyward Sr. “It means a lot.”

The Downtown arena’s charitable arm, Barclays Center Cares, and the basketball team’s philanthropic offshoot, the Brooklyn Nets Foundation, together pitched in $324,000 to make over the pair of courts in Nicholas Naquan Heyward Jr. Park, which went more than two decades without renovations despite a 2011 refreshening of the rest of the Wyckoff Street meadow.

Department of Parks and Recreation workers revamped the tired play spaces with a fresh coat of paint and new nets, hoops, backboards, fencing, benches, and water fountains equipped with water-bottle fillers.

An officer patrolling the neighborhood’s public-housing complex the Gowanus Houses fatally shot the 13-year-old Heyward in his apartment in 1994, and city officials renamed the former Gowanus Houses Playground — where the aspiring professional athlete loved to spend afternoons shooting hoops and dribbling, according to his dad — after the teen in 2001.

And the elder Heyward — who runs a foundation in his son’s name and hosts an annual basketball tournament in the park on the late boy’s birthday — said he hopes the ceremony with Nets players including D’Angelo Russell, Spencer Dinwiddie, and Jarrett Allen wasn’t a mere publicity stunt, and that city officials will continue to invest in more youth and community centers in the nabe, especially after they shuttered the Gowanus Houses Community Center more than 10 years ago, he said.

“I’m hoping that they will really dedicate their support to something that I’ve been trying to do in the community for years, which is establish a safe haven for the youth,” said Heyward Sr. “The youth in the community do not even have a place to go after school to help elevate themselves.”

Reach reporter Julianne Cuba at (718) 260–4577 or by e-mail at jcuba@cnglocal.com. Follow her on Twitter @julcuba.
Updated 6:51 pm, December 6, 2017
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