Brooklyn missed a great opportunity when Bruce Ratner sold the naming rights to his Nets arena to a foreign bank with no connection to the borough.
It’s regrettable that Ratner did not find a way to name his sports arena after Brooklyn Dodger Jackie Robinson, choosing instead to partner with a bank with links to slavery.
We must not allow the same mistake to be made at another major development site nearby.
That’s why The Brooklyn Paper is calling for the condo-and-open space development that is being built along the Brooklyn Heights and DUMBO waterfront to be named “Harriet Tubman Park.”
Like the squandered opportunity at Atlantic Yards, the so-called Brooklyn Bridge Park offers a historic chance to honor a great American in a perfect location. The Fulton Landing area is believed to be a site through which fugitive slaves sought passage along Tubman’s “underground railroad,” on their way to safer areas to the north.
And the site has a commanding view of the Statue of Liberty, the nation’s greatest symbol of freedom.
A campaign a few years ago to rename Fulton Street in Tubman’s honor fizzled and the city ended up only co-naming a portion of the street after her. We felt then, as we do now, that a portion of Fulton Street was an inadequate choice because New York should honor Tubman in a place of the highest visibility — to reflect that she is a hero for all Americans, not just African-Americans.
It is a shame that great Americans are frequently honored only by their own racial group. Malcolm X, Marcus Garvey and Martin Luther King Jr., for instance, have streets named after them in Harlem and Bedford-Stuyvesant even though their contributions to American history are a legacy for all of us.
Harriet Tubman was a modern-day Moses. An escaped slave, she returned repeatedly to pre-Emancipation Maryland to rescue, by her estimate, 7,000 slaves. She later became a spy for the North during the Civil War and even helped plan a raid that freed 750 more human beings.
The naming of “Harriet Tubman Park” would not only raise the profile of this great American hero, but also undo some of the damage Ratner has done with his insensitive partnership with a bank founded on profits made from the blood of the human beings Tubman devoted her life to saving.
Like Barclays’, America has an ugly history with slavery, and, as the saying goes, those who don’t know history are condemned to repeat its mistakes.
Naming Brooklyn Bridge Park after Harriet Tubman would go a long way towards stopping that cycle of ignorance.
©2007 Community News Group
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