On Wednesday, 2 Plaques Honoring Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee Removed In Brooklyn


NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — Hours after plaques honoring Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee were removed from a church property in Brooklyn, Gov. Andrew Cuomo is seeking to have confederate names removed from the streets of Fort Hamilton.

Cuomo tweeted the following Wednesday afternoon:

The governor also sent a letter to Acting Army Secretary Ryan D. McCarthy, saying, “The streets – Stonewall Jackson Drive and General Lee Avenue – are named for leaders in the Confederate army who fought to protect slavery.

Given the events of this week, including the violence and terrorism perpetrated by white supremacists in Charlottesville and the resulting emboldening of the voices of Nazis and white supremacists, I now strongly urge the U.S. Army to reconsider its decision and I call on them to rename these streets.

The events of Charlottesville and the tactics of white supremacists are a poison in our national discourse, and every effort must be made to combat them.

Symbols of slavery and racism have no place in New York. In our state, we condemn the language and violence of white supremacy in no uncertain terms. Unlike President Trump, we stand together to say that there are not many sides to hatred and bigotry; they do not belong in our communities and must be denounced for what they are. Renaming these streets will send a clear message that in New York, we stand against intolerance and racism, whether it be insidious and hidden or obvious and intentional.”

Mayor Bill de Blasio also tweeted Wednesday afternoon, saying the city will “conduct a 90-day review of all symbols of hate on city property.”

Earlier Wednesday, the two plaques that marked a maple tree outside St. John’s Episcopal Church came down.

Bishop Lawrence Provenzano, leader of the Episcopal Diocese of Long Island, told Newsday  the descendants of former slaves should not walk past what they believe is a church building and see a monument to a Confederate general, WCBS 880’s Marla Diamond reported.

“It doesn’t do the church its mission any good to allow this to remain in place,” said Provenzano, who said the plaque was brought to his attention by a candidate for City Council. “Some may think it’s not a big deal that we remove this sign. We think it’s a really big deal. It is an outward invisible expression of our commitment to stand with all of God’s people.”

Reaction among local residents was mixed.

“It’s history, like or dislike, there are many parts of American history I don’t like,” a woman, named Joyce, said.

“It’s ridiculous, it’s part of our history, you don’t change your history,” said 90-year-old World War II veteran Bill Castiglione, who called the plaque’s removal political and unnecessary. “This has been here for 100 years, why wasn’t it stopped 100 years ago? Now all of a sudden after 100 years it’s derogatory. It’s part of our history.’

But another resident, named Daniel, disagreed.

“It was forgotten, it was remembered, it is gone and that is for the best,” he said.

The larger of the two plaques was placed outside St. John’s Episcopal Church by the United Daughters of the Confederacy in 1912. It commemorated the spot where Lee is said to have planted a tree while serving in the Army at Fort Hamilton in New York in the 1840s, two decades before he became commander of the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia.

The plaque marked a tree that was a descendant of the one Lee is believed to have planted. A second plaque made note of that. Workers used power tools to remove them Wednesday.

The Richmond, Virginia-based United Daughters of the Confederacy did not respond to calls and emails seeking comment about the removal of the Brooklyn plaques.

The church has long been empty. It closed in 2014 and is being sold.

Also Wednesday, Bronx Community College announced it plans to “remove and replace the busts of Confederate Gens. Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson from the Hall of Fame for Great Americans.”

The removal comes in the wake of last weekend’s deadly white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, where white supremacists protested plans to remove a Lee statue from a public park.

Members of New York’s Congressional delegation from Brooklyn unsuccessfully petitioned the Army’s secretary in June to have Lee’s and his fellow Confederal Gen. Stonewall Jackson’s names removed from streets in Brooklyn’s active Army base, Fort Hamilton.

The roads run through the base and aren’t readily accessible by the general public.

Congresswoman Yvette Clarke said the events of the past few days have renewed their efforts.

(© Copyright 2017 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)