What to Know
- Congress members are introducing a bill to rename General Lee Avenue and Stonewall Jackson Drive in Fort Hamilton in Brooklyn
- Community leaders have been asking for years that the street names be changed
- The recent clash over the proposed removal of a Robert E. Lee monument in Charlottesville has ignited debate over all Confederate tributes
The battle over Confederate monuments is heating up in New York City and heading for Capitol Hill.
Local congress members rallied in Brooklyn Tuesday to pressure the U.S. Army to change the street names of two Confederate generals -- General Lee Avenue and Stonewall Jackson Drive, both located inside Fort Hamilton in Bay Ridge.
Community leaders have been asking for years that the street names be changed. Now congress members are introducing and supporting legislation in the House of Representatives that would rename or remove Confederate imagery from U.S. military installations.
"We believe these memorials are an insult and are a magnet to those in the white supremacist movement," said Rep. Yvette Clarke (D-Brooklyn).
"We're making it clear that symbols of the Confederacy, which represent nothing more than hate and white supremacy, have no place in Brooklyn or anywhere else in the United States of America," said Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-Brooklyn, Queens).
Gov. Andrew Cuomo also said last week that he wrote to Acting Secretary of the Army Ryan McCarthy asking to remove names of Lee and Jackson from Fort Hamilton in Bay Ridge.
The recent clash over the proposed removal of a monument to Robert E. Lee in Charlottesville has ignited debate over all tributes to the Confederacy across the U.S. Since last week, in New York City alone, plaques honoring Gen. Robert E. Lee were removed from a church property in Brooklyn, and the bronze busts of Lee and Jackson were to be removed from the CUNY Hall of Fame for Great Americans in the Bronx.
The push to eliminate monuments linked to controversial figures in history has extended to Central Park and to Columbus Circle: leaders in Harlem want the statue of Dr. J. Marion Sims, considered the father of modern gynecology, to be taken down in Central Park. The statue has been criticized for years by defenders of civil rights, who say it honors his medical achievements without mentioning that he experimented on enslaved women. And City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito is among those who want the statue of Christopher Columbus at Columbus Circle removed due to his treatment of Native Americans.
The NYPD Columbia Association, a 6,000-member organization of officers who promotes awareness of contributions made to the U.S. by Italians and Italian-Americans, says it "strongly condemns" Mark-Viverito's call to remove the statue of Columbus, which was gifted to the city by Italian Americans in 1892.
"It's the height of hypocrisy for the speaker to march with a known terrorist in the Puerto Rican Day Parade and to turn around two months later and vilify Christopher Columbus," said president Det. Manny Rossi, referring to Mark-Viverito's decision to walk with the controversial Oscar Lopez Rivera. "As for Mayor de Blasio, a proud Italian-American, we expect him to once again march in this year's Columbus Day Parade."
Mayor Bill de Blasio announced last week that New York City will conduct a 90-day review "of all symbols of hate on city property." The commemoration for Nazi collaborator Philippe Petain in the Canyon of Heroes will be the first to be removed, he tweeted.
Since then, de Blasio said he wouldn't comment on every statue that's sparking renewed discussion and controversy, and preferred to take a wait-and-see approach as the commission does its research.
"I think the important thing to do is let that commission get going -- let them take every nomination, if you will, from everyday New Yorkers, from elected officials to activists -- look at the whole picture and come back with a plan," he said Tuesday.