By Mary Frost
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
City councilmember Jumaane Williams (D - Flatbush, East Flatbush) is taking another whack at getting the East Flatbush home of baseball legend Jackie Robinson designated as a city landmark.
This will be the second time Councilmember Williams has tried to convince the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) to confer landmark status to the Robinson's family home at 5224 Tilden Avenue.
The LPC turned down the application last year when it ruled the site wasn’t eligible because Robinson's contributions to history took place before he moved to East Flatbush. LPC said in a letter that the Robinsons lived at the home for just one year, from April 1948 through May 1949. But Williams says records show the Robinson family moved in in 1947.
“The plaque on the house says they moved in in 1947, and our records show they moved in in 1947,” Williams’ spokesperson Nick Smith told the Brooklyn Eagle on Tuesday. Smith said Williams sent letters on Tuesday to each member of the LPC asking them to re-evaluate the designation.
While living in East Flatbush, Robinson was drafted to the Brooklyn Dodgers, and was named both Rookie of the Year and Most Valuable Player. He also lived there when then-General Manager Branch Rickey began the integration of Major League Baseball by making Robinson a starting player. Robinson went on to help his team to win the 1947 National League championship.
More than 8,500 people have signed a petition at Change.org, where Williams points out that the home has been a National Historical Landmark for close to 40 years. Not only was the house inhabited by Jackie Robinson, who broke the color barrier, but it was the home of the first African-American family in East Flatbush.
A description of the property reads like a lesson in American history. Segregation still existed in East Flatbush in the 1940s, but a Jewish family, the Satlows refused to sign a racist petition circulating around the neighbor, allowing Eleanor and Christopher Palin to purchase the property.
After the Palins passed away, their nieces and nephews became the owners of their house and rented to the Robinsons. Brooklyn Dodgers owner, Branch Rickey had proposed that Robinson move there as a symbolic gesture against segregation. Members of the Palin family still own the house.
Williams says the overwhelming majority of his constituents from East Flatbush, along with elected officials, the local Community Board and neighborhood business owners wholeheartedly support landmarking the property.
“This home represents the triumph of racial unity over discrimination, fear and division, and it must be preserved, especially just eight months after anti-black and anti-Jewish racial slurs were scrawled across Robinson's statue at Brooklyn Cyclones' stadium," he said in a statement.
Smith told the Eagle that the Federal landmarking includes a set of incentives to preserve the property, while the city landmarking is more stringent. “City landmarking requires a permit to make property alterations,” he said.