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Push to landmark Jackie Robinson’s home

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While Ebbets Field is long gone, a move is afoot to look into the possibility of getting landmark status for the home where Dodgers great Jackie Robinson once lived. Robinson’s old home, at 5224 Tilden Avenue, is a modest East Flatbush house, built in 1925, but its connection to the man who broke the color barrier in major league baseball makes it a structure of great significance for residents of the community, the borough and the city. Indeed, it was named to the National Register of Historic Places in 1976, four years after the baseball great’s untimely death at the age of 53. Community Board 17 has sent a request for evaluation of the house, which is privately owned, to the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC). The request forwarded to LPC by the board, called Robinson, “A major figure in American history,” and noted, “Dodger General Manager Branch Rickey began the integration of baseball and American society by making Robinson a starting player, and his talent and the ordeal he underwent at the hands of racists made him a legend.” “It would be an honor if they landmarked it, with the owner of the property’s consent,” remarked Albert Payne, the chairperson of the board’s Land Use Committee. Josefina Johnson, a board member, concurred. Noting that the federal government had recognized the house’s historic significance when they added it to the National Register, she said she would like to see the city make a public gesture of recognition of the home’s importance. “It stands for our roots,” Johnson stressed. “I am trying to make sure it doesn’t move.” Brooklyn Borough Historian Ron Schweiger, who recalled meeting Robinson, “Many times as a kid,” and who has a collection of Brooklyn Dodger and Robinson memorabilia, said that what makes the house special is that, “Jackie and Rachel Robinson lived there at a time when the neighborhood was primarily a white community. “It was at a time when he was changing America,” Schweiger stressed. “It wouldn’t be known for several years, but his entering major league baseball really changed America.” “The integration of baseball was the event that began the civil rights revolution, and it started in Brooklyn because Branch Rickey had the guts to buck racism and make change,” noted Robert Furman, the chairperson of the Four Borough Neighborhood Preservation Alliance. “The only other existing building closely associated with that is the Brooklyn Trust Branch of Chase on Montague Street, which was the Dodgers’ bank. LPC does, “Make every effort to obtain owner approval when pursuing the designation of a prospective landmark,” said Lisi de Bourbon, an agency spokesperson. “We don’t always get it but we always make an attempt. If we don’t have the owner, it’s a less meaningful process.” Robinson lived in the home from 1947, the year he broke into the majors, until 1950. He played with the Brooklyn Dodgers from 1947 until 1956, when he retired after his contract was sold to the then New York Giants. Robinson, who spent most of his career at second base, retired with a .311 lifetime batting average. He was a renowned base stealer, and was named National League MVP in 1949, the year he captured the league’s batting title.

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