On April 11, 2013, New York City Council Member Jumaane D. Williams (D-Brooklyn) announced a push to landmark Jackie Robinson’s historic family home at 5224 Tilden Ave in Brooklyn, NY. Council Member Williams stated that landmarking Jackie Robinson's home will finally protect the home's historic, aesthetic, cultural heritage, which will also help stabilize and improve property values in the area, and promote civic pride.
However, on July 8, 2013, the New York City Landmarks Preservation denied the petition, saying that "the site is not eligible for individual landmark designation."
Between 1947 to 1949, Jackie Robinson and his family occupied the home, and during that time, was named the Rookie of the Year and the Most Valuable Player. He was a pioneer who broke Major League Baseball’s color barrier with the Brooklyn Dodgers and helped his team to win the 1947 National League championship.
"Heroes like Jackie Robinson come from East Flatbush, and we need to treasure and preserve that history," stated Council Member Jumaane D. 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. It blends in just like the other houses in the district, and that’s why we need to work to landmark it. We want to make sure people can’t just come in and tear it down, that they respect history.”
Williams believes that there are several overwhelming arguments in favor of landmarking Jackie Robinson's home. First, the home has been a National Historical Landmark for close to 40 years. There are far fewer National Historical Landmarks in New York City than there are LPC designated Historical Landmarks, meaning that the property was subject to a much more stringent vetting process that was satisfactory for the United States Government to designate it a historical landmark.
Second, the home was not only inhabited by Jackie Robinson, who broke the color barrier, but was the home of the first African-American family in East Flatbush. If it were not for the fact that one of their neighbors, the Satlows, stood up to the overwhelming racism displayed by the residents of East Flatbush at the time, the Palins would not have been able to purchase this property. Furthermore, it was Brooklyn Dodgers owner, Branch Rickey, who proposed that Jackie Robinson move into this home as a symbolic gesture to combat the effects of segregation which still permeated throughout East Flatbush in the 1940’s.
Finally, the overwhelming majority of Council Member Williams’ constituents from East Flatbush, along with federal, state, and local elected officials, the local Community Board and neighborhood business owners all wholeheartedly support landmarking this property. For African-Americans in this neighborhood, this home represents they triumph over the bigotry and discrimination.
Council Member Jumaane D. Williams implores the city of New York to respect the wishes of the community so that we can honor, protect, and restore this property. Once again, Jackie Robinson's family home can be a cornerstone of cultural and social mobility and tolerance.
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