Bay Ridge

Clarke to hold rally outside Fort Hamilton gate

Congress member wants Lee, Jackson names removed

August 21, 2017 By Paula Katinas Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Workers remove plaques containing the name of Robert E. Lee from Saint John’s Episcopal Church in Bay Ridge. Photo courtesy of the Episcopal Diocese of Long Island
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Putting pressure on the U.S. Army hasn’t worked, so a Brooklyn lawmaker is turning to other methods to try and force the federal government to remove tributes to two Confederate generals from the U.S. Army Garrison at Fort Hamilton. 

U.S. Rep. Yvette Clarke (D-Central Brooklyn) is coming to Bay Ridge on Tuesday, Aug. 22 to lead a protest rally in John Paul Jones Park outside the main gate of Fort Hamilton to demand that the Army change the names of two streets located within the fort: General Lee Avenue and Stonewall Jackson Drive. 

The rally will take place inside the park, located on Fourth Avenue and 101st Street, at 11 a.m. 

U.S. Rep. Nydia Velázquez (D-Sunset Park) and U.S. Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-East New York-Canarsie-Coney-Island) are also sponsoring the protest rally.

Gen. Robert E. Lee and Gen. Stonewall Jackson were both stationed at Fort Hamilton in the 1840s, 20 years before the Civil War.

Clarke also announced that she plans to introduce legislation called the “Honoring Real Patriots Act of 2017” to require the Department of Defense to change the name of any military installation or other property under its control named for individuals who fought against the U.S. during the Civil War or supported the Confederacy’s war efforts.

“The time has come for the Army to remove from Fort Hamilton and other military installations the disgraced names of men who waged war against the United States to preserve the evil institution of slavery,” Clarke said in a statement. “For hundreds of thousands of Brooklyn residents, as well as troops stationed at Fort Hamilton who are prepared to fight for this nation, the monuments are an insult.” 

The bill’s co-sponsors include Jeffries, Velázquez and Jerrold Nadler (D-Upper West Side-Bay Ridge, Bensonhurst).

“Monuments to the Confederacy are a sad celebration of the most shameful parts of our nation’s history,” Velázquez said. “Monuments reflect our values, and Americans everywhere recognized these memorials to racism belong in museums where we can teach our children about what we can never allow to happen again.”

Last week, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced his support for the effort to remove the names of Lee and Jackson from Fort Hamilton.

Thus far, however, the army has refused to change the names of the two streets.

In a recent letter to Clarke, Diane M. Randon, the senior official performing the duties of the assistant secretary of the army, outlined the reasons for denying the name-change request.

“The great generals of the Civil War, Union and Confederate, are an inextricable part of our military history. After over a century any effort to rename memorializations on Fort Hamilton would be controversial and divisive. This is contrary to the nation’s original intent in naming these streets, which was in the spirit of reconciliation,” Randon wrote. 

But other efforts have been made to purge traces of Confederate history from Bay Ridge and other Brooklyn neighborhoods.

A plaque containing Lee’s name was removed last week from a tree outside Saint John’s Episcopal Church on Fort Hamilton Parkway under orders from the Episcopal Diocese of Long Island.

The church closed in 2015, but the diocese still has jurisdiction over the property.

Religious leaders stood and watched on Aug. 16 as workers carefully dislodged the metal plaque from the tree.

“People for whom the Civil War is such a critical moment, and particularly the descendants of former slaves, shouldn’t walk past what they believe is a church building and see a monument to a Confederate general,” Bishop Lawrence Provenzano of the Episcopal Diocese of Long Island told Newsday.

Commissioned by the United Daughters of the Confederacy, the plaque was erected in 1912 outside the church located at 9941 Fort Hamilton Parkway. Lee attended St. John’s Episcopal Church when he was stationed at Fort Hamilton.


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