Saleem Ali credits his childhood as the inspiration for his community work. As student at PS 67, he became very interested in the history of Fort Greene. At Sands Junior High School (now Susan McKinney), he became very involved in basketball. One day after school, a revelation came to him to start his own youth program.
A decade later, in 1977, this came to fruition when Saleem started a summer basketball tournament. At the time, there were no other youth activities, and the neighborhood was struggling through the drug epidemic. Saleem started with his own time and money, and then asked for help around the neighborhood recruiting young men in the community to coach, and asking local businesses for donations.
Thus began Fort Greene Recreation on the Commodore Barry Park playground. As the program grew, Saleem got permission to use his old middle school in the winter months. Through the 30 years he ran the program, Saleem has mentored multiple generations of Fort Greene, often coaching fathers and then their sons.
Saleem was also awarded the title of Park Warden of Commodore Barry Park in 2003. Other roles Saleem has played in the community are Playground Associate; Sergeant-at-Arms for the Ingersoll Executive Board and Tenant Patrol Supervisor for NYCHA. He currently organizes the annual Fort Greene Farragut Old Timers Day.