A Fort Hamilton street named after Confederate Civil War general Robert E. Lee is finally being renamed, with its new moniker honoring Brooklyn native and Medal of Honor recipient First Lieutenant John Earl Warren Jr.
Warren, an African-American Crown Heights native, was just 22 years old and leading his unit amid heavy gunfire in Tay Ninh Province, Vietnam in 1969, when he jumped on top of a grenade thrown in the middle of his advancing platoon, sacrificing his life to save his countrymen. The Army says his actions saved the lives of at least three people, and for his bravery, he was posthumously awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor.
Warren’s name will displace that of Lee, who was stationed at the Bay Ridge fort before the Civil War. Advocates and elected officials had been trying for years to get the name changed, seeking to remove any honorifics in the Big Apple to such disgraceful figures of the past. But the Army, which held final authority over the street name, long refused to budge, even as hundreds of streets, buildings, statutes, and institutions honoring Confederate figures saw their names changed in recent years.
The new street name and sign was officially unveiled in a ceremony at the fort on May 20. Warren’s younger sister, Gloria Baskin-Warren, said at the ceremony that the move to drop General Lee Avenue and honor her brother had been in the works since 2019. The street will now be known as John Warren Avenue.
“This is a big deal because my brother was born and raised in Brooklyn, attended the public schools in Brooklyn. This is an honor to have a street sign here at Fort Hamilton Army Base with his name on it, in Brooklyn, his home,” Baskin-Warren said. “When Army personnel and their family members and retirees walk along John Warren Avenue, and say to themselves ‘who was John Warren,’ I hope that they would take the time to look his name up and know that he is deserving of this honor, that he sacrificed his life to save three of his Army men.”
The Army also plans to remove the name of another Confederate general, Stonewall Jackson, from a street within Fort Hamilton, the only active Army base in the five boroughs, the New York Times reports. That street is already co-named for George Washington, and will take on the first president’s name as its sole moniker in the coming weeks.
City Councilmember Justin Brannan, who reps Fort Hamilton and surrounding nabes at City Hall, said he’s elated by the change, and could think of no one better than Warren to bear the street’s name.
“I can think of no better antidote for a street dedicated to a racist traitor than renaming it in honor of a Black American hero who lived at the height of the Civil Rights movement and died fighting for his country in selfless sacrifice,” Brannan wrote on Twitter. “I am grateful the U.S. Army Garrison Fort Hamilton is using this opportunity to honor the loyalty to country and basic human decency of people like John Earl Warren Jr. who unlike Robert E. Lee represent the best of who we are as Americans.”