Bay Ridge

Calls increase for name change at Fort Hamilton

Pols say Robert E. Lee doesn’t deserve street designation

June 30, 2015 By Paula Katinas Brooklyn Daily Eagle
West Point cadets marched into Fort Hamilton for a ceremony in April. The fort has become a focal point of controversy over the fact that one of its streets is named for Robert E. Lee. Eagle file photo by Paula Katinas

A movement to convince the U.S. Army to change the name of a street located on the U.S. Army Garrison at Fort Hamilton that honors Confederate general Robert E. Lee appears to be gaining momentum as Brooklyn elected officials are speaking out on the controversy.

Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams is the latest public official to call for a name change.

“We can no longer accept a single government site in this nation, not a street, school, or military installation, named for an individual who fought to preserve slavery in America,” Adams said in a statement.

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Fort Hamilton, located in Bay Ridge, has a street named General Lee Avenue in honor of Robert E. Lee. Lee, a graduate of West Point, served at Fort Hamilton in the years prior to the outbreak of the Civil War. Another Confederate leader, General Stonewall Jackson, also served there in the 1840s and also has a street named in his honor.

Fort Hamilton, built in 1825, is the only active military base in New York City.

“Any symbol that may be used to create division and discord is a potential danger to our civic unity and should be treated as such,” Adams stated. “I am calling on the Department of the Army and members of congress to take immediate steps to rename General Lee Avenue and Stonewall Jackson Drive at Fort Hamilton.”

U.S. Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-Brooklyn-Queens), a member of the House Judiciary Committee and whip of the Congressional Black Caucus, said he believes dumping the name of General Lee Avenue is the right thing to do.

“Brooklyn is one of the most diverse counties in America, with sizable communities of color,” Jeffries stated. “There is no good reason for a street to be named after an individual who led the Confederate Army in the fight to keep slavery and racial subjugation alive in America.”

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“It is my hope that we will do the right thing and find an appropriate local hero for whom the street can be renamed,” Jeffries added.

Adams, too, expressed the hope that a new name could be found for the avenue located on the historic military base.

“Fort Hamilton has a proud history in Brooklyn of protecting our shores and preserving our freedom. Let us commission a panel of historians and local leaders to determine heroes truly befitting of having their names memorialized inside this post,” the borough president said.

On Saturday, the Rev. Al Sharpton and several dozen others held a vigil outside of Fort Hamilton to call for a name change.

“Why would you have an army base honoring a defective who generaled the army for the Confederates, and who was seeking to overthrow the government?” Eyewitness News quoted Sharpton as saying.

The controversy over General Lee Avenue came to light in the wake of the Charleston, South Carolina shootings and the increasing calls to remove the Confederate battle flag from government buildings in states across the south.

In addition to streets like General Lee Avenue, there are 10 military bases around the country that are named after Confederate figures.

Pentagon officials stated that there are no plans to change any of the names at this time, CNN reported.

 


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