St. John's Recreation Center
Buddy Keaton Field
James “Buddy” Keaton, Director of Sports Programs for Brooklyn Recreation at Parks, passed away in July 2010 after 24 years of service at Parks. His legacy lies within the many people - young and old - who benefited from his caring and tireless devotion to sports programming and community development. The programming that Buddy developed in public parks provided countless people with new educational and social opportunities. Those who worked alongside of him, or participated in his programs, remember him for his wealth of knowledge and experience, his abiding presence and his sense of humor. Well before he came to Parks, Buddy was a long-time advocate of youth development. Once he came to Parks, he promoted sportsmanship, discipline, and strength of character throughout the communities of Brooklyn. Here he combined his two passions – community outreach and sports – to great effect. For all of this, he is remembered here at Buddy Keaton Field in St. John’s Park.
Born in 1936 in Wilmington, North Carolina, Buddy Keaton came to New York in his early years, graduating from East New York Vocational High School in 1956 and attending Manhattan Community College from 1958-60. For 15 years he worked in youth and family counseling. When he came to Parks in 1987, he applied the same interest in youth development through sports as he had through counseling. In his 12 years at Parks prior to his directorship, he was based at St. John’s Recreation Center where he assisted in the management of the center and more broadly in sports programming in Brooklyn. He mentored generations of young men and women, many of whom now serve as leaders in their communities. He also brought to Parks a wide range of contacts throughout the community that he continued to build upon throughout his working life. These friendships greatly enriched the programs he fostered at Parks and will continue in his name. During the course of his 24 years at Parks, he became a celebrity in his own right.
Over the years St. John’s Park has received tremendous support from the Borough President and other elected officials, especially Councilman Albert Vann, who personally sought allocations of over $11 million during his tenure. The funding has elevated St. John’s Park to a state of the art park with new basketball and handball courts, night lights, playground, synthetic turf field and track. The newly built field and track named in Buddy’s memory have transformed St. John’s Park. Buddy played a role in the early stages of these developments before his passing and would have been proud to witness their completion. The Buddy Keaton field was funded with over $2.8 million as part of Mayor Bloomberg\'s PlaNYC Asphalt to Turf program.
Sports programming at Parks has been an essential catalyst throughout the agency’s history in bringing Parks to people and people to Parks. Buddy Keaton will always be a role model for this unique expression of community outreach.
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