Advocates seek preservation of baseball legend’s home
by Jess Berry
May 21, 2014 | 842 views | 0 0 comments | 17 17 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Councilman Jumaane Williams stands with co-homeowner Tonya Wheelock, Senator Charles Schumer and Congresswoman Yvette Clarke in front of Jackie Robinson’s home.
Councilman Jumaane Williams stands with co-homeowner Tonya Wheelock, Senator Charles Schumer and Congresswoman Yvette Clarke in front of Jackie Robinson’s home.
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Councilman Jumaane Williams dons a Jackie Robinson jersey as Senator Charles Schumer holds up the famous number 42.
Councilman Jumaane Williams dons a Jackie Robinson jersey as Senator Charles Schumer holds up the famous number 42.
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Jackie Robinson’s home on Tilden Avenue in East Flatbush.

Jackie Robinson’s home on Tilden Avenue in East Flatbush.
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A small, unassuming house on Tilden Avenue in East Flatbush bears a plaque that could easily be missed by anyone walking down the residential street.

What that plaque reads, however, has become the focus for a number of elected officials who are trying to get the home designated as a New York City historical landmark.

“Jack ‘Jackie' Roosevelt Robinson, 1919-1972,” the plaque reads. “The first African-American major league baseball player lived here from 1947 to 1949.”

While the home of the baseball legend is on the National Register of Historic Places, Councilman Jumaane Williams, Senator Charles Schumer and Congresswoman Yvette Clarke are working to get the city Landmark Preservation Commission to recognize 5224 Tilden Ave.

“We are here to celebrate an important part of our legacy here at the borough of Brooklyn, and indeed an important part of the legacy of the United States on the whole,” Clarke said. “This home, the home where Jackie Robinson resided when he played for the Brooklyn Dodgers, will forever remain a cherished part of the history of our nation and the community that we share.”

The city designation is important for the preservation of Robinson’s home. Without city recognition, the site can still be altered or demolished by a private owner.

Advocates first tried to get the home recognized as a landmark last year, but their application was rejected.

Within the application, it was pointed out that Robinson lived in the home between 1947 and 1949, or so research indicates.

In 1947, Robinson was acquired by the Brooklyn Dodgers, breaking the racial barrier in Major League Baseball. He thus would have been living in the house on Tilden Ave. when he received the MVP and Rookie of the Year awards, making the home an important landmark for baseball history.

The Landmark Preservation Commission, however, believed that Robinson moved into the house in 1948 and decided that it was not eligible to be designated a landmark.

“There was a grave error made,” Williams said. “We believe they have an opportunity to change that.”

Williams believes that, besides the significance for baseball, the house also represents an important part of the history of the fight for racial equality. Robinson was one of the first black people to live in a primarily Jewish neighborhood.

“Jackie Robinson’s house had a strong impact on the community, which was not only about stolen bases and home runs, but about blacks uniting with Jews against intolerance and breaking color barriers off the field,” he said. “It serves as a symbol of an era where brave Americans, both black and white, stood up against racial intolerance and bigotry.”

Schumer agreed with Williams, saying he felt shivers going down his spine as he approached the house.

“This house has such recognition, such meaning to America, to our history, to the good and the bad,” Schumer said. “The bad discrimination, the good, the strength of people of both races that can overcome that discrimination.”

“We need this home as a living memorial to what Jackie and so many others did,” he added.

The current owners of the house, descendants of the family who rented the home to Robinson, are still deciding how the house will be used if it does receive landmark recognition. There have been discussions of a museum, but nothing has been decided.

Do you think the city should landmark the Brooklyn house Jackie Robinson rented?


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