Bay Ridge church takes down plaque honoring Confederate leader

So long: Bishop Rev. Lawrence C. Provenzano, of the Episcopal Diocese of Long Island, and Bay Ridge City Council Candidate Rev. Khader El-Yateem speak at a press conference commending the removal of the plaque.
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A plaque commemorating the Confederate leader General Robert E. Lee was hauled off the grounds of the so-called Church of the Generals in Bay Ridge on Aug. 16 in the wake of last weekend’s white supremacist protests and violence in Charlottesville, sending a message that racism has no place in Brooklyn, according to a local political hopeful.

“Removing this plaque makes it very clear that while we will never forget the history of slavery in America, we are ready to move forward and address racism at its root,” said Rev. Khader El-Yateem, a Democrat running for the Bay Ridge city Council seat.

Neighborhood advocates and religious leaders sought the removal of the more-than-100-year-old plaque following the murder of activist Heather Heyer on Aug. 12 by a neo-Nazi who allegedly rammed his car into a crowd of non-violent demonstrators during a protest about the removal of a stature of Lee from a Virginia public park. The sign marked a tree the Confederate leader planted outside the now-shuttered St. John’s Episcopal Church, known as the Church of Generals because of all of the army members stationed at nearby Fort Hamilton who worshipped there.

“This was an easy decision. No one should walk by a church and see a monument honoring someone who fought to preserve slavery. It doesn’t mean that we forget the history, but it means that we need to remember it differently,” said Bishop Lawrence Provenzano of the Episcopal Diocese of Long Island. “In the sense that the church can stand for all of God’s people and stand for the Gospel of Jesus Christ, we removed these plaques as one of the many outward invisible expressions of our solidarity with God’s people, particularly those who are feeling oppressed by the actions of white supremacists and the neo-Nazi movement and its support across this nation.”

Lee was stationed at the Bay Ridge Army base in the 1840s — years before the Civil War — when he planted the maple tree at the Fort Hamilton Parkway church. The iron sign honoring the Confederate general was posted there in 1912.

But following the wave of calls nationwide to remove similar monuments that celebrate the country’s history of slavery, El-Yateem and others jumped on board to demand the removal of Lee’s plaque outside the church. The Episcopal Diocese of Long Island’s decision to remove something that memorializes a defender of slavery is a step in the right direction, said the would-be councilman.

“I am grateful that our advocacy worked,” he said. “The Episcopal Diocese of Long Island is on the right side of history by removing this symbol that venerates our history of slavery.”

But there’s still more to be done, according to a handful of pols, including Rep. Yvette Clarke (D–Flatbush) and Borough President Adams, who are calling on the U.S. Army to change street names inside the Fort Hamilton Army Base that honor Confederate leaders, such as General Lee Avenue and Stonewall Jackson Drive. The push to change the names gained steam in 2015 after a racially motivated mass shooting in a church in Charleston, S.C., sparked a nationwide movement to remove Confederate flags and other memorials from public spaces.

Back in June, members of Brooklyn’s congressional delegation, including Rep. Yvette Clarke, Rep. Jerrold Nadler, Rep. Nydia Velázquez, and Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, petitioned the Department of the Army to change the names, but the Pentagon rebuffed the request.

In a July 20 letter to the delegation, Army spokeswoman Diane Randon wrote that “After over a century any effort to rename memorializations on Fort Hamilton would be controversial and divisive.”

Now, less than a week after one of the most controversial and divisive incidents in the movement to remove Confederate memorializations, pressure is building anew on the Army over the street names.

Gov. Cuomo wrote a letter to the acting secretary of the Army on Aug. 16 demanding the removal the street signs he called deeply rooted in racism.

“Symbols of slavery and racism have no place in New York,” he wrote.

On the same day, even Republican mayoral candidate Assembylwoman Nicole Malliotakis (R–Bay Ridge) added her voice, to make a bipartisan call to change the street names.

Reach reporter Julianne Cuba at (718) 260–4577 or by e-mail at Follow her on Twitter @julcuba.
Updated 5:56 pm, July 9, 2018
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Reasonable discourse

Harry says:
They're absolutely right, the only way to remember history is to remove any markers of it!
None of the plaques mentioned are much noticed, or really honors. They just tell what happened and who was where. This is manufactured "offense". At best it's pointless, at worst it's an attempt to remove the bits of history that don't conform to their world views. Slavery can be bad and a major Confederate leader can have visited certain places in Brooklyn.
If Benedict Arnold had been there, I'd also want to know. They are significant historical figures regardless of the fact that they were enemies of the US.
Aug. 18, 2017, 3:34 am
Rufus Leaking from BH says:
It looks like the Rockettes were here for all the knees jerking!

Oh, and that tree was a replacement tree for the one that he actually planted which died over 100 years ago.

Now that the plaque is gone all our problems are solved!

Remember when confederate flags decorated the graves of the CSA soldiers on Memorial Day? Wasn't that long ago.

But history begins when you get here when you are manufacturing outrage.
Aug. 18, 2017, 6:54 am
Angry from Brooklyn says:
This isn't enough - I won't be happy until they tear down the church itself! Brick by brick! It's very existence is an insult to me!
There's also a business in Flatbush called "Southern Fried Chicken"! The south, the place where slavery happened?! Close that store!!
What about Atlantic Avenue - named after the very ocean the slaves were transported across?!?! Offensive!!!
And these two MEN think they are able to speak on behalf of slaves?!?! They have never been slaves themselves - what they are doing is cultural appropriation!!!!!!??
Aug. 18, 2017, 8:39 am
Wake from Up thyne stupidness says:
Religion is more bs than racism. Hate is stupid but a real thing that is everywhere, not a made up fairytale invented to turn the weak-minded into sheep.
Aug. 18, 2017, 9:16 am
Petey from Sunset Park says:
I make you a bet that these morons (politicians included) are ignorant of the fact that many of these generals were West Point grads before the civil war and served in the US Army honorably. Robert E Lee was Superintendent of West Point, was a U.S Army general until Virginia seceded because he felt an obligation to his home state of Virginia. You cannot judge historical figures through the lens of our beliefs today. Those that do are doing it for personal gain and political reasons only! They are the fascist.
Aug. 18, 2017, 10:02 am
John from Bay Ridge says:
Lee and Jackson committed treason against the United States. They violated their oath as officers and made war on the US. All in the cause of slavery and secession. They should not be honored publicly anywhere in the US.

The "social justice warriors" have a very selective sense of outrage, however. They chose to honor and praise bigoted pigs like Farrakhan, cop killers and Linda Sarsour's favorite Islamic supremacist Iman, among others. It would be wonderful if all symbols and proponents of totalitarianism were repudiated along with treasonous scum like Lee and Jackson.
Aug. 18, 2017, 10:21 am
Frank from Bay Ridge says:
I thought it was so cool that Lee and Jackson were once present around that area. Now nobody will know. BTW, do we take FDR off the dime since he interred the Japanese. When will it end?
Aug. 18, 2017, 11:13 am
Morris from Mill Basin says:
Death is actually too good for Nazi white supremacist scum, so I will be doing you worthless pieces of excrement a favor.
Aug. 18, 2017, 12:41 pm
Morris from Mill Basin says:
Why are Nazis, KKK, white supremacists allowed to live in Brooklyn? If you see one, kill one!
Aug. 18, 2017, 12:42 pm
Morris from Mill Basin says:
I can lend you equipment, give you tips, etc., on getting rid of any Nazi in Brooklyn.
Aug. 18, 2017, 12:43 pm
FAH-Q from From the bottom of my heart says:
Morris from Mill Basin, internet tuff guy®
Aug. 18, 2017, 12:54 pm
Charley from Dumbo says:
I agree with John: Lee and Jackson committed treason against the United States. They violated their oath as officers and made war on the US. All in the cause of slavery and secession.
I can't believe that there are street names inside Ft. Hamilton for confederate generals!
Aug. 18, 2017, 1:24 pm
Lillian from Boerum Hill says:
George Orwell would be so proud! A plaque no one ever knew about has been put in history jail. At last racial harmony can begin.
Aug. 18, 2017, 1:54 pm
Bay Ridge Democrat from Bay Ridge says:
El Yateem seems to be a man of action.

What happened to the big fella who collects lots of city paychecks?
Aug. 18, 2017, 2:04 pm
Mrs kravitz from Bewitched says:
The time has come to rid the world of Franlin Roosevelt memorials. Unless of course a Japanese person is not worth as much as an Afrikan Amerikan.
Aug. 18, 2017, 2:33 pm
Steven Rosner from Fresh Meadows says:
Hey,Morris,I don!t think many Nazis,KKK membes or any other rag tag white supermiscists,could afford to live in (New)Brooklyn. Sorry,(Old) Brooklyn,the Broiklyn,NY( Brooklyn prior to the mid 1980s,or so );was full of honest-to-god,working-stiffs,who were also racists and/or anti-Semites. Sometimes, loudmouth ones,too. Yeah,we should just have Hipsters,or people,like Morris from Mill Basin;in 21st century(New) Brooklyn!! This already the case,anywhere near central,or more recently;our nation's, San Francisco. My guess is nowadays,a runned-down house,in Mill Basin;costs about $1-million? Morris, $1-million wold buy seven,maybe? ten "nicely-maintained" homes,in the long-time;economically-depressed,parts of the nation--that many of these ragtag various white supremacists,call their home towns.
Aug. 18, 2017, 3 pm
John Peter Zenger from Trinity Churchyard says:
There is no such person as Morris from Mill Basin. He is probably the other personality of the pervert troll. Seriously, is there anyone under 100 named Morris?
Aug. 18, 2017, 3:17 pm
Steven Rosner from Fresh Meadows says:
Just to make my points clearer about(Old) Brooklyn,I did NOT intend to equate racism and/or anti-Semitism with being"a working stiff". In reality,such feelings were often mutual. There was Black racism,against Whites,as well as;White racism against Blacks. There were( for argument-sake),Irish and Italians,who were anti-Semitic;but their were also Jews,who mutually returned-the dislike. And yes,there was Black anti-Semitism,but;certainly as many Jewish racist,against Afro-Americans. I'm using a popular l970s term. And,I meant to emphasize,the total super-gentrification of,"central London",England!!
Aug. 18, 2017, 4:30 pm
Frida Slaves from Beirut Ridge says:
El Yateem is a man of action. He's jumped on this bandwagon - just ask the Democratic Socialists of America who have endorsed him.
Aug. 18, 2017, 4:33 pm
Sherman from Sunset Park says:
The Episcopal Church has been outed as a Southern sympathizer. The bishop should resign and the property given to Al Sharpton.
Aug. 18, 2017, 4:53 pm
Carrie from Bay Ridge says:
I can't believe a known racist like El Yateem would dare to show his face at this. The things he has said both publicly and privately are such a disgrace! He is a little Donald Trump in sheep's clothing.
Aug. 18, 2017, 5:58 pm
Quinoa from Park Slope says:
So, removing a plaque that essentially says "Robert E. Lee Was Here" ensures that everyone will never forget slavery? They will certainly forget that Robert E. Lee was there, which is pretty sad. Good, bad, it's American history, and Lee was a major figure in that history. If we're going down this ridiculous road, how about tearing down the greatest monuments to slavery, the White House and the Capitol? I mean, they were built in part with slave labor. How can anyone defend their continued existence?
Aug. 19, 2017, 12:19 pm
I'm Just Sayin from Bay Ridge says:
Watch out folks.

Trump may just decide to close Fort Hamilton base. It's useless.
Aug. 19, 2017, 12:53 pm
Rufus Leaking from BH says:
But but but we FEEEEL good about ourselves when we participate in this kind of theater.

It's all about feelings.
Aug. 19, 2017, 2:06 pm
Dennis Grecco from Bensonhurst says:
How ridiculous the church reacted. I have a confederate coin that I'm going to toss into the Hudson River. I need to call the news first because I want a film to commemorate its ignorance as well.
Aug. 19, 2017, 6:52 pm
Freddie from Broooklyn says:
Decipher NY Creeps they just don't like: Non Criminals.
Your fake rationals on this that or the other, it's natural that farts come out of the mouths of N Y ——heads. I am Now Supporting Raising the Confederate flag Everywhere in New York City.
Aug. 20, 2017, 2:23 am
Freddie from Broooklyn says:
Giant Riots took Place in New York City, Against Entering the Civil War and the Draft, the whole city was in Uproar! Morons read New York History. They could see Lincoln was a Criminal lunatic as a matter of another fact, Lincoln has the same photo expression as mucky Lucyani!
Aug. 20, 2017, 2:32 am
Tracy from Brooklyn Heights says:
The strangest thing is that Khader El Yateen knows nothing about American history. I'm impressed that someone taught him who General Lee was. Although you can see in the pictures that he just stood there while someone else did the talking. Probably for the best for him.
Aug. 20, 2017, 4:06 am
Realist from Wow says:
Closed church waaaaaaay at the end of Ft. Hamilton Pkwy where no one walks by.........building not landmarked so...............probably gone soon................what a victory!
Aug. 20, 2017, 7:41 am
Frank from Furter says:
There is a difference between a historical marker and a monument that was put up to support jim crowe laws. The fact that Lee went to church there and planted a tree when there is an interesting historical fact. A monument to the old south and what it stood for is different. The monuments in the 60's were mainly to counter the civil rights movement. The confederacy was mainly to keep slavery not for state's rights.
Aug. 20, 2017, 8:24 am
Bus Rider from Bay Ridge says:
Instead of worrying about a plaque Khader El-Yateen should concern himself with the youths from his community who hang out around 5th avenue between 85th and 86th street at night and harass the restaurants on the west side of that block.
Aug. 20, 2017, 11:03 am
Cindy Wong says:
Everyone seems to hate General Lee, and I can only wonder if it's because of his Chinese ancestry. I am also a member of the Lee family, and are the proud clan! Not to be silenced! Chinese dragons!
Aug. 20, 2017, 4:12 pm
Freddie from Brooooklyn says:
The South is more Truthful than Zoo York, Northern Criminals don't have correct self respect, they can't communicate in correct mind or language formation!!!!!!!!!!
Aug. 22, 2017, 12:31 am

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