Bay Ridge’s John Paul Jones Park was the site of a rally on Tuesday, August 22, as local pols and Brooklynites gathered to advocate for the renaming of two streets in Fort Hamilton Army Base commemorating Confederate Army generals.
Congressmembers Yvette Clarke, Nydia Velázquez and Hakeem Jeffries, who collectively represent parts of Sunset Park, Boro Park and Coney Island as well as other neighborhoods, spoke out against the existence of General Lee Avenue and Stonewall Jackson Drive in Fort Hamilton. The streets are named after Confederate Generals Robert E. Lee and Thomas Jonathan “Stonewall” Jackson.
The three also promoted the “Honoring Real Patriots Act of 2017,” which was introduced by Clarke on August 18 and co-sponsored by Velázquez and Jeffries, among others. If passed, the federal legislation would require that the Department of Defense change the name of any military installation or other property under its control currently named for supporters of the Confederacy or individuals who fought against the United States during the Civil War.
“The Army has resisted the call the to change the names on streets in Fort Hamilton, which for decades have been used to honor men who in fact waged war against the United States to protect the evil institution of slavery,” said Clarke, who represents Brooklyn’s Ninth Congressional District. “We believe that these memorials are an insult and are a magnet to those in the White Supremacist movement to continue their bigotry, their hate, their violence.”
Amber Adler, a Homecrest resident who attended the rally with her two children in support of renaming the streets, held a sign stating, “Take The High Road/Rename The Streets,” and another made by her son that stated simply “Rename The Streets.”
“We shouldn’t have things around that are going to remind people of a bad time in our history. Yes, there is a part of our history that exists and includes this, but we shouldn’t be triggering people every single day with this. We shouldn’t subconsciously giving people a feeling of oppression,” she said.
However, despite the removal of Confederate monuments nationwide, other Brooklynites at the rally expressed opposition to getting rid of what they believe to be a major part of Bay Ridge’s history.
“I can’t support this, because It’s impossible to erase history. In history there are good events and bad events, but we learn from them,” said a Sheepshead Bay resident who asked to remain anonymous. “One of the things I’m happy about is that we abolished slavery, but you can’t erase history.”
This article originally appeared in the Brooklyn Reporter.