Council Member Calls for Designation of Jackie Robinson’s Former Brooklyn Home

Council Member Juamaane Williams outside Jackie Robinson Tilden Avenue home.  Photo Credit: Keith Dawson/NYC Council.

Council Member Juamaane Williams outside Jackie Robinson Tilden Avenue home. Photo Credit: Keith Dawson/NYC Council.

Council Member seeks full Council support and support of online petition.  On April 29, 2014, City Council Member Jumaane Williams of Brooklyn introduced Resolution 209 calling upon the Landmarks Preservation Commission to designate 5224 Tilden Avenue in Brooklyn an individual city landmark.   The two story residence served as the home to Jackie Robinson, the first African American to play Major League Baseball for the Brooklyn Dodgers.

Council Member Williams originally submitted an application to Landmarks on April 11, 2013, requesting designation of the location.  Williams argues that this location was Robinson’s residence from 1947 to 1949. Robinson’s historic first season was in the Majors in 1947, when he broke the color barrier and won the Rookie of the Year Award for the Dodgers.  The home was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1976.

On July 8, 2013, the Landmarks Commission denied the application in a letter to Williams, stating the site was not eligible because Robinson only lived in the house for one year from April 1948 until May 1949 and was not present when his historic first season occurred.  Williams contends that his records, as well as the National Historic Landmarks Program records, show that Robinson did in fact live at 5224 Tilden in 1947.  The current owners of the house are heirs of the family who rented the location to Robinson.  Rose Bowman, the oldest living heir, claims it was rented in 1947.

In an official statement provided to CityLand, Landmarks argues that they used evidence not available to the National Registry in 1976.  Landmarks states, “Books which give a much more detailed account of where the Robinson family lived had not yet been published (in 1976). This includes… Arnold Rampersand, Jackie Robinson Biography (New York: Ballantine Books, 1997); Rampersand states that the Robinson family moved to Tilden Avenue in April, 1948, and based on its research of Jackie Robinson’s Addisleigh home, the Commission concurs. Our research indicates that Robinson bought the Addisleigh House in February 1949 and moved in shortly thereafter. It was thus determined that the Robinsons lived at the Tilden Avenue address for just over one year, and many important milestones of his career occurred while he was residing in Addisleigh Park, and in the period prior to moving into the Tilden Avenue apartment.”

Landmarks stated that in 1947 Robinson temporarily occupied a room at the McAlpin Hotel and then moved to 526 McDonough Street in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn for the remainder of the 1947 season.  In the letter sent to Council Member Williams, Chair Robert B. Tierney, “concluded that many of the major milestones of Jackie Robinson’s career…occurred before or after his comparatively brief residence on Tilden Avenue, and that the landmark designation of his home in Addisleigh Park, where he resided during major milestones of his career, is an appropriate commemoration of this historic figure’s life and work.”  Landmarks did confirm that if Robinson did live on Tilden Avenue in 1947, it would have taken that strongly into account.

Council Member Williams is joined by many elected officials from the City, State and Federal government, as well as the Brooklyn Historical Society, in the push for landmarking.  Brooklyn Community Board 17 strongly supports designation.  Williams started an online petition on, which now has over 8,600 signatures.   Williams encourages more people to join this petition.

Council Member Williams stated, “Heroes like Jackie Robinson come from East Flatbush, and we need to treasure and preserve that history.” He continued: “This house is proof of the rich culture that exists south of Eastern Parkway. Jackie had an impact on the lives of every member of this community through his bravery on and off the field. We must protect that legacy for future generations to learn from and appreciate. It blends in just like the other houses in the district, and that’s why we need to work to landmark it. We want to make sure people can’t just come in and tear it down, that they respect history.”

Resolution 209 represents the first time in 14 years that a Council Member has called upon the Landmarks Preservation Commission to designate a location.  In 2000, Council Member Kathryn Freed called for the preservation of the Edgar Allan Poe House in Greenwich Village before NYU could demolish it.  Freed’s resolution was never voted on and in 2001, NYU demolished the original house.  A replica has since been built.

The Council Land Use Committee has not yet scheduled a hearing date on the resolution.  Resolution 209 is a non-binding resolution that the Landmarks does not have to follow should it pass.

Council Reso. 209-2014 (April 29, 2014)

By: Brian Kaszuba (Brian is the CityLand Editor and New York Law School Graduate, Class of 2004)

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