Community leaders join to Celebrate Civil Rights pioneer's legacy in advance of "42" movie's release
Council member Jumaane D. Williams
Thursday, Council Member Jumaane D. Williams joined community members in East Flatbush to proclaim his effort to get New York City landmark status for 5224 Tilden Avenue, better known to the public as the Jackie Robinson House. Robinson lived at this address in East Flatbush from 1947 - when he earned the Rookie of Year award with the Brooklyn Dodgers - through 1949, when he was voted Most Valuable Player. Council Member Williams declared that achieving city landmark status for the property would help safeguard the house's historic, aesthetic, and cultural heritage, help stabilize and improve property values in the surrounding area, and encourage civic pride. The news comes a day before the theatrical release of "42", a biographical film about the life of the baseball great and civil rights pioneer.
"Heroes like Jackie Robinson come from East Flatbush, and we need to treasure and preserve that history," said Council Member Williams. "This house is proof of the rich culture that exists south of Eastern Parkway. Jackie had an impact on the lives of every member of this community through his bravery on and off the field. We must protect that legacy for future generations to learn from and appreciate.
Council Member Williams was joined by the current owners of the Jackie Robinson House, who are heirs to the family that rented to the Robinsons. The oldest living heir, Rose Bowman, gave an oral presentation to the audience, which included a class of fifth-grade students from nearby PS 244 about the history of the house, the prejudices the families faced when they integrated into the neighborhood and fond memories of the Robinsons' time spent there as tenants. The current owners expressed their gratitude for the landmarking effort and mentioned their interest in seeing the home eventually turning into a museum.
"Hearing Ms. Bowman speak about her own history as well as her memories of Jackie and Rachel Robinson is a true privilege," said Council Member Williams. "The students present today got a real education of how greatness comes from their own backyard and lies deep within each of them."
Elected officials from Washington, Albany and Brooklyn expressed their support for Council Member Williams' landmarking effort.
"Jackie Robinson was a pioneer who overcame the color barrier in Major League Baseball when he debuted with the Brooklyn Dodgers," said Representative Yvette D. Clarke (D-Brooklyn). "His contributions to the Civil Rights Movement were extraordinary. He remains a hero to people around the world, especially in Brooklyn, where he also lived. It would be fitting to honor the legacy of Jackie Robinson by designating his Flatbush home as a New York City Historical Landmark."
"Anywhere that Jackie Robinson called home in Brooklyn deserves landmark status," said Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz (D-Brooklyn). "Jackie Robinson is an American icon and one of Brooklyn's most important heroes - continuing to set an example for our children today. He may have been known for touching home on the diamond, but now his home can touch the lives of Brooklynites who will always be inspired by his great American story."
"The legacy of Jackie Robinson can never be celebrated enough, therefore I urge New York City to grant landmark status to his former home on Tilden Avenue in East Flatbush," said Assembly Member N. Nick Perry, chairman of the New York State Association of Black and Puerto Rican Legislators. "The great #42 lived there while patrolling the infield of Ebbets Field as a Brooklyn Dodger, and while residing at 5224 Tilden Avenue he captured the National League's Rookie of the Year and Most Valuable Player awards. Not only was Jackie Robinson a tremendous catalyst for the Brooklyn Dodgers lineup but for the modern-day civil rights movement as well, and is fully deserving of such an honor."
Council Member Williams was joined at the Jackie Robinson House by representation from the Brooklyn Historical Society, a nationally recognized urban history center dedicated to preserving and encouraging the study of Brooklyn's extraordinary 400-year history.
"On behalf of the Brooklyn Historical Society, I applaud all efforts to honor the extraordinary history of Jackie Robinson whose impact on American history goes far beyond his greatness as a baseball player," said Deborah Schwartz, president of the Brooklyn Historical Society. "The power of place is one that is undeniable, and I believe 5224 Tilden Avenue, already a National Historic Landmark, deserves recognition by the City of New York, as the home of one of America's great heroes, a man whose courage helped move us all towards racial equality in this country."
Local leaders were also present at the press conference to speak in favor of Council Member Williams' project.
"I appreciate and issue this quote in support of having Jackie Robinson's house designated as a New York City historical landmark," said Terrence LaPierre, president of the Small Business Men & Women of Avenue D.
"We support Council Member Williams' effort to have the Jackie Robinson home on Tilden Avenue designated as a New York City Historical Landmark," said Hazel Martinez, president of the Four In One Block Association. "Jackie Robinson's accomplishments on the baseball field are only a part of his legacy. His courage in the face of rabid violence as he broke the color barrier in one of America's greatest pastimes serves as a fine example of the grace and strength of many of the heroes of the Civil Rights Era. His activism was evidenced by his sheer will to be great, to embody the goals of inclusion by merely playing the game, and to bare alone the burden that comes with fomenting fundamental change in the process. Let the spirit of this landmark be a guiding light to all of us."
Council Member Williams and others celebrated the film and the local icon with the aid of promotional movie posters that were generously donated by Warner Brothers and Legendary Pictures. Also on hand were Brooklyn Cyclones general manager Steve Cohen and Sandy the Seagull, who entertained the children and announced that a select number of tickets to see "42" on Jackie Robinson Day would be made available to the local community.
Council Member Jumaane D. Williams represents the 45th Council District, which covers Flatbush, East Flatbush, Flatlands, and parts of Midwood and Canarsie. He is the chair of the Oversight and Investigations Committee and co-chair of the Task Force to Combat Gun Violence. He is also the Co-Vice Chair of the Black, Latino and Asian Caucus and a founding member of the Progressive Caucus. He was first elected to office in 2009.