Contact: Colleen Roche or Dwight Williams (212) 788-2958
Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani and Sonya Pankey, granddaughter of Jackie Robinson, today unveiled a sign renaming the Interboro Parkway, the Jackie Robinson Parkway in honor of the Brooklyn Dodger, who 50 years ago today broke baseball's color barrier. Prior to the unveiling, Governor George E. Pataki signed legislation proposed by the Mayor that authorized the renaming of the Parkway. The Mayor also proclaimed today "Jackie Robinson Day" in New York City.
Also joining the Mayor at today's event was Queens Borough President Claire Shulman; Brooklyn Borough President Howard Golden; Deputy Schools Chancellor for Operations Lewis H. Spence; Deputy Mayor Rudy Washington and other elected officials. Representatives from the Jackie Robinson Foundation, the New York Mets, Major League Baseball and the Major League Baseball Players Association were also on hand.
"Jackie Robinson once said that 'a life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives'," Mayor Giuliani said. "And by that standard Jackie Robinson's life is important. In naming the Interboro Parkway after him today, we say a small 'thank you' to the man who paved the way for greater equality and opportunity for African Americans in this country. Fifty years ago, in one memorable season, he changed baseball and American society forever. The Parkway passes his gravesite and links Brooklyn and Queens. I hope all who travel on the road remember the grace and courage that Jackie Robinson symbolizes. I would also like to thank State Senator Serphin Maltese and Assemblyman Jeffrion Aubry for shepherding our bill through the State legislature and Governor Pataki for taking swift action on it."
Rachel Robinson, who was unable to attend today's ceremony said, "Since Brooklyn was the birthplace and locale for the nurturing of Jackie Robinson's career, it seems fitting that a roadway commemorating his triumphs should symbolically remind us of the rich interconnections and possibilities between communities."
Governor Pataki said, "For a generation of New Yorkers, Jackie Robinson represented what the American Dream is all about. He overcame the many racial obstacles of the day to become one of the greatest players of all time, inspiring people of all colors with his courage and determination. His legacy goes far beyond the baseball diamond. By breaking the color barrier in baseball and changing the way America looked at race, Robinson helped open the door of opportunity to countless minorities and taught us all the importance of equality, fairplay and perseverance."
State Senator Maltese, who sponsored the bill on the Mayor's behalf and who was unable to attend today's event said, "Jackie Robinson is a true American hero who had the courage and conviction to successfully challenge the notion that the color of one's skin meant more than one's ability. Today all New York honors Jackie for changing the mindset of a nation and opening doors to minorities that had previously been closed."
Queens Borough President Claire Shulman said, "Jackie Robinson was one of America's greatest heroes. Queens has a special relationship with Jackie Robinson since it was in this borough that Branch Rickey made the decision that would change the life of Jackie Robinson and indeed American history. He made dreams come true during his decade with the Brooklyn Dodgers. When it was said 50 years ago that he would drive white fans away, Jackie Robinson's courage, integrity and talent filled stadiums."
Brooklyn Borough President Howard Golden said, "We remember Jackie Robinson not just for his leadership and skill, which helped bring six National League Pennants and a World Series victory to the Brooklyn Dodgers. We remember his courage and his example in overcoming the prejudice and racism of his day with courage and honor."
The New York City Department of Transportation has installed 42 new green and white new Jackie Robinson Parkway signs along the five-mile stretch of highway which was designed by urban planner Robert Moses in the 1930's. The Parkway passes the cemetery in Cypress Hills where Robinson is buried.
In 1947, Jackie Robinson compiled one of the greatest rookie seasons in baseball history, leading the league in batting with a .349 average and was named the first ever Rookie of the Year. In 1957, after 11 historic seasons with the Dodgers, helping them win six National League Pennants and one World Series Championship, Robinson retired from baseball. In 1962, he was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame. Shortly after his death in 1972, the Rookie of the Year award was renamed the "Jackie Robinson Rookie of the Year Award."
The Mayor also commended the Jackie Robinson Foundation (JRF) -- a public, not-for-profit national organization that provides education and leadership development opportunities, principally for minority youths with strong capabilities and limited financial resources -- for keeping Jackie's legacy alive. The foundation was established in 1973 as a vehicle to perpetuate the memory of Jackie Robinson and his achievements. Serving as an advocate for youths with the greatest need, JRF assists increasing numbers of promising young people to realize their full potential as well-educated and active participants in the process of deliberate social change. It strives to ensure that the legacy of Jackie Robinson's activism and commitment to social justice will be carried forth in the personal, community and institutional lives of young people as they assume leadership roles throughout society.
For more information about the Jackie Robinson Foundation write to:
Later this evening, Mayor Giuliani will attend a Jackie Robinson tribute held during the New York Mets - Los Angeles Dodgers game at Shea Stadium. Thanks to the generosity of the New York Mets, 5,000 schoolchildren will attend tonight's tribute and baseball game for free.