Governor David A. Paterson today announced that the State office building located at 55 Hanson Place in Brooklyn has been renamed the Shirley A. Chisholm State Office Building in honor of the late Congresswoman. A plaque commemorating the achievements of Congresswoman Chisholm was unveiled at a dedication ceremony held at the building.
"Shirley Chisholm was a lifelong leader who worked tirelessly to better the lives of those in her community and across this country," Governor Paterson said. "Her ability to inspire action in others is a gift that continues to resonate today. Naming this building in her honor will recognize her legacy in perpetuity and serve as a constant reminder of her dedication to positive change."
In 1968, Shirley Chisholm became the first black woman elected to Congress. She went on to represent Brooklyn for seven terms from 1969 to 1983. Ms. Chisholm became the first major-party black candidate for President of the United States and the first woman to run for the Democratic presidential nomination. The legislation to rename the building in her honor was signed into law by Governor Paterson and sponsored by Senator Velmanette Montgomery of the 18th Senate District and Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries of the 57th Assembly District.
Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries said: "Shirley Chisholm blazed a trail from the streets of Brooklyn in 1972 to the White House in 2008 with the election of Barack Obama. We all owe Shirley Chisholm a debt of gratitude for her dogged spirit and indomitable strength that changed the very social fabric of our nation forever. As America looks forward to a brighter future, we must never forget to honor those like Ms. Chisholm who helped pave the way and inspire a generation of leaders to seek justice and equality on behalf of the most vulnerable among us. Indeed, she casts a shadow far larger than this building."
Senator Velmanette Montgomery said: "Shirley Chisholm inspired me to make a difference for my community through the political process. She demonstrated how politics can be a life of service and accomplishment for real issues: equality, education, children's services, women's rights, and the fight against poverty. Mrs. Chisholm worked for the good of all people. I am very proud that there will be a building in Brooklyn that stands in her honor, and I look forward to witnessing the next generation of leaders who are inspired by her priceless examples."
Bill Howard, the former Senior Administrative Assistant to Representative Chisholm, who represented the Chisholm family at the ceremony, said: "Shirley's work can be seen today on the streets of America. Her life's work centered around a better quality of life for all people, especially our youth. Shirley never wanted to be remembered as the first black woman to be elected to congress, or the first black person to make a bid for the presidency of the United States. Rather, Shirley is remembered as she wanted to be – a catalyst for change in America."
The 13-story facility located at 55 Hanson Place, in Brooklyn, (Kings County), was constructed in 1914-15 and designed by Trowbridge and Ackerman Architects as a flagship Young Men's Christian Association (YMCA) building. Throughout its history, the building has been used in many different capacities that Shirley Chisholm, a lifelong champion for human services, would have endorsed including a homeless shelter, State human services offices and a child development center.
The following statements were provided in support of the renamed the Shirley A. Chisholm State Office Building:
Congressman Edolphus Towns said: "Shirley Chisholm's distinguished career is marked by so many 'firsts' that I am hard-pressed to highlight any one that is more important than the other. Shirley helped redesign the social and moral fabric of our country. No lawmaker worked harder against all odds to make the American dream a reality for those who thought it impossible. Shirley was a voice for those who had none. She was a woman who wanted to be a catalyst for change, and fought tirelessly for that change. The Shirley Chisholm State Office Building is just a small token of our gratitude to honor her pioneering accomplishments."
Congresswoman Yvette D. Clarke said: "The Honorable Shirley Chisholm was an outspoken pioneer for Brooklyn, a dynamic hero, and an inspirational role model for millions of Americans. It is because of the groundbreaking work of Mrs. Chisholm that women have been empowered to take leadership roles in this nation. I want to congratulate Governor David Paterson, Senator Velmanette Montgomery and Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries for their leadership in making this possible. I am humbled and deeply honored to represent a large portion of the congressional district that she once represented during her tenure as a U.S. Representative. I will continue to support efforts to preserve the legacy of those who have paved the way for the next generation of leaders."
Former New York City Mayor David N. Dinkins said: "I always thought that Shirley was effective, but I recognized that she would never achieve some of the things for which we all fought; some things were beyond our reach at that time. Still, it was very important that the battle be fought, and she really believed that. She had to compromise in many ways, but not with principles."
About Shirley Chisholm
Shirley Anita St. Hill Chisholm (1924-2005) served in the New York State Assembly from 1964 to 1968 before becoming the first African-American woman ever elected to the United States House of Representatives, where she served from 1969 until 1982. Her run for the Democratic nomination for the U.S. presidency, though unsuccessful, opened doors for subsequent generations of women and minorities. Throughout her life, Chisholm was an outspoken champion for the poor, a defender of equal rights, and an advocate for the disenfranchised.
Born in Brooklyn, Shirley Chisholm's early education took place in Barbados, where she and her sisters lived with their grandmother during a period of financial hardship for the family. At age ten, she attended New York City public schools. After graduating cum laude from Brooklyn College in 1946, Chisholm began her career in early childhood education, first as a teacher and eventually as a school director. In 1952 she earned a master's degree in elementary education from Columbia University. Her political and community activism dates to her college years.
In 1964, her political career began in earnest when she was elected to the New York State Assembly. As an Assemblywoman, she sponsored some 50 bills, many reflecting her efforts to fight poverty, defend women's rights, and increase educational opportunities. Among those enacted into law were measures providing assistance for low-income students to pursue higher education, extending employment insurance coverage to domestic employees, and maintaining tenure protection for New York teachers while on maternity leave.
In 1968 Chisholm became the first African-American elected to the United States House of Representatives, where she worked to find solutions to the problems of racism, poverty, and urban decay. She was a staunch supporter of women's rights and opposed the Vietnam War. Always looking to form coalitions uniting like-minded peers, she cofounded the National Women's Political Caucus.
Ms. Chisholm became a national figure when she ran for the Democratic Party's 1972 U.S. presidential nomination. She won over 150 votes at the Democratic National Convention before withdrawing. Conscious of her status as a role model and example, Chisholm noted in her memoir of the campaign, "The next time a woman runs, or a black, a Jew, or anyone from a group that the country is 'not ready' to elect to its highest office, I believe he or she will be taken seriously from the start. The door is not open yet, but it is ajar."
After retiring from Congress in 1982, she joined the faculty at Mt. Holyoke College in Massachusetts, where she taught political science and women's studies. In 1984 she cofounded the National Political Congress of Black Women and in 1985 became its first president. Declining health prevented her from accepting a nomination to become the U.S. Ambassador to Jamaica in 1993.
About 55 Hanson Place
The 13-story facility located at 55 Hanson Place, in Brooklyn, (Kings County), was constructed in 1914-15 and designed by Trowbridge and Ackerman Architects as a flagship Young Men's Christian Association (YMCA) building. Throughout its history, the building has been used in many different capacities that Shirley Chisholm, a lifelong champion for human services, would have endorsed.
Up until the 1970's, 55 Hanson Place served young people as a YMCA building. In the mid-seventies, it became a Substance Abuse Center, serving in that capacity for about three years. The building was empty for several years before the State of New York took control. In the early 1980's, the basement and some of the upper floors were operated as a Homeless Shelter. In order to address the need for New York State agency office space in the New York Metro Area, a major reconstruction effort was undertaken in 1987 through 1991 to provide 300,000 square feet of interior space to house various New York State agencies. This project became a catalyst for redevelopment in the surrounding neighborhood.
The building is currently an important part of the portfolio of State office buildings owned and operated by the New York State Office of General Services and is occupied by 18 distinct New York State agencies and offices. Among these are the Attorney General's Office, Department of Labor, Department of Human Rights, Department of Housing and Community Renewal, Office of Children and Family Services, and Department of Education – all of which are advocates for the people of the city and State to which Ms. Chisholm dedicated her life. Perhaps the use closest to Shirley Chisholm's heart is the Hanson Place Child Development Center located on the first floor of the building, serving residents of the surrounding community as well as State employees who work in the building.
The history of the 55 Hanson Place facility makes it a fitting structure to bear the name of a true public servant, Shirley Chisholm.