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The latest news about one of New York City’s best waterfront parks.

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Park People

Zebedee Collins


Chess is somewhat of a park classic in this city, but not every park offers free chess instruction for anyone who wishes to attend! The man who brings the wonderful Checkmate 101 program to Brooklyn Bridge Park, Zebedee Collins, has an infectious love for the game (and a great laugh) - so much so that he inspires chess students young and old, novice and expert, to practice their skills each Wednesday on Pier 1. Hear more of what Zebedee has to say below, and you’ll get exactly why he has created such a loyal following!

What do you do you do when you’re not in the park?

I am a 79-year-old retiree and professionally, I do not do anything. However, I am a volunteer tutor of GED subjects (Math) for the “1199 Learning Center” one day per week.

Please describe what you do for/with the park

For the past two summers, I taught “chess” to “Beginners” in a program called Checkmate 101. The objective of the program is to promote chess playing and chess improvement in Brooklyn. The program is available to kids, adults and park visitors.

How did you become interested in chess?

I became interested in playing chess by watching my younger brother. He taught me how to play chess when I was 27 and he was 20. I have been enjoying this great game ever since.

Why do you think chess is important for the community?

I think chess is important to the community because of the skills that are developed by the players. Problem solving, thinking, planning and socialization are some of the skills that are learned/developed when you play chess. Chess players are a sub-community of the community at large.

What’s an interesting fact you’ve learned about Brooklyn or the park since you started collaborating with us?

I’ve lived in Brooklyn since 1965 and I am familiar with many neighborhoods. What I didn’t know about was the Brooklyn Bridge Park Conservancy. The scope of the park project is mind-boggling.

What do you like about the park?

I like everything about the park and its programs. I especially like the bird’s-eye view of lower Manhattan.

What motivates you to partner with the park?

There is something for everyone in the park. The variety of the park programs and the diversity of the people motivate me to partner with the park.

Why is it important to provide affordable chess classes in Brooklyn? What do you think most students are looking for in these classes?

Chess classes in general are very expensive, especially if taught by Chess Masters. The best/affordable chess classes in Brooklyn are those that are free, such as Checkmate 101. I believe that most chess students are looking to play frequently and to improve their chance of winning the game.

What is your favorite feature of the park?

My favorite feature of the park is the diverse and innovative programming.

What is your favorite memory of the park?

My favorite memory of the park is the smiling face of a player when he/she check mates an opponent in Checkmate 101.

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