DOWNTOWN BROOKLYN – The death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg struck the nation. But it particularly struck the borough she grew up and was raised in. And now, the people of Brooklyn want to keep her legacy alive and honor her in any way they can.
Ginsburg, 87, was a daughter of Jewish immigrants. She lived on East 9th Street in Midwood and graduated from P.S. 238 and James Madison High School. She “resonated so profoundly with Brooklynites — the elders who followed her judicial career and the young people who loved the pop icon — because she represented the values of her block,” the NY Times wrote. Ginsburg advocated for the rights of women and fought a battle with cancer. She died on Friday, September 18.
At 1 p.m. on Sunday, September 20, dozens of people gathered in front of the Brooklyn Municipal Building on Joralemon Street, to pay their respects to Ginsburg. Many wore white collars around their necks, something that Ginsburg proudly did.
The NY Times wrote, “the collars served as both semiology and semaphore: They signaled her positions before she even opened her mouth, and they represented her unique role as the second woman on the country’s highest court. Shining like a beacon amid the dark sea of denaturing judicial robes, Justice Ginsburg’s collars were unmistakable in photographs and from the court floor.”
“I’m wearing this collar because it makes me feel powerful,” an 18-year-old girl who went by Natalia told Bklyner at the memorial. “This country lost a real one. I don’t know what is going to happen tomorrow with this country, but I do know that we will need to continue to fight to keep her legacy alive.”
Borough President Eric Adams had a fiery speech, first reminding everyone that Ginsburg was “Brooklyn owned.” He said that people were able “to run their mile” because of the paths that those before them paved for them.
“Harriet Tubman running her mile allowed Susan B. Anthony to run her mile. Susan B. Anthony ran her mile to allow Eleanor Roosevelt to run her mile. Eleanor Roosevelt running her mile allowed Justice Ginsburg to run her mile. She ran her mile and allowed Kamala Harris to run her mile to be the potential vice president of the United States,” Adams said. He was met with cheers and applause. “This is not a fifty-yard dash; it’s a relay. And as we tell our young girls and young boys, as they embrace the concept of running their miles, understand that they should drop to their knees and give thanks to the Justice Ginsburgs of our times and our days. It is because of the running of their miles that allows them to run their miles.”
He continued to say that it is about time Mayor Bill de Blasio listens to his constituents and allows renaming of the Brooklyn Municipal Building after Ginsburg – an initiative that Adams launched in 2018.
“Ruth Bader Ginsburg has become an icon, affectionately referred to as the ‘Notorious RBG.’ In an era where popular culture puts performing artists and sports stars on a public pedestal, Ruth Bader Ginsburg has risen to incredible levels of iconic admiration and love,” Adams wrote in the Change.org petition. “Society often waits to recognize a lifetime of accomplishment until after that lifetime ends. In this case, we can honor the life and service of Ruth Bader Ginsburg during what we hope will be a long and active remaining life.”
“We all benefitted from her. I am who I am because she was who she was. That is why this is so important and why we need to be clear on the narrative that she not only made a gender great, she made America great,” Adams said at the memorial. “Now we must demand that the Mayor of the City of NY no longer delay and put her name on the Municipal Building to show some respect for her legacy. It has taken too long. She should have seen it while she was alive. Before she is buried, we need to put her name on this building.”
Similarly, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that there will be a statue of Ginsburg in Brooklyn.
“It’s a tremendous loss for the nation. She was a generational role model and champion. We are going to do a statue in Brooklyn for her. She is a Brooklyn native and we’re very proud of that,” Cuomo said. “I’m going to announce a commission that will work on the statue and exactly how we want it depicted. I’ll be doing that this week. We’re looking at possible locations. We’re considering Brooklyn Bridge Park on a site that would overlook the Statue of Liberty, so we’re considering that.”
Back at the memorial, Senator Chuck Schumer came by with his daughter, son-in-law, and grandchild Noah. He was wearing shorts and a sweater and said he had just gone out for a walk to meet his grandchild and had forgotten this memorial was taking place today. He, too, had some fiery words.
“What kind of world do we want Noah to grow up in? We want him to grow up in a world where women are treated fully equally and have the full right to choose and control their own bodies. We want to live in a world where my daughter and her wife can be happy in the sanctity of their marriage,” he said. “We want to live in a world where there are civil rights and equal rights and there’s justice in policing. All of these things depend on us fighting hard for Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s dying wish and that is that the next president chooses the next US Supreme Court Justice, not Donald Trump.”
The Dean of Brooklyn Law School Michael T. Cahil announced that the school’s Board of Trustees proposed and approved the creation of the Ruth Bader Ginsburg Chair in Law at the Brooklyn Law School.
“The highest honor a professor can receive is to be rewarded what we call a Faulty Chair, reflecting a career or contributions to the scholarly community to the legal profession and to society as large,” he said. “This is the only law school is Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s native borough. And accordingly, we thought it was only fitting that we honor her legacy not just as an accomplished jurist, but… as a fearless firebrand of a lawyer.”
Though Assembly Member Robert Carroll didn’t attend James Madison High School as Ginsburg did, he did announce that he was a janitor at the high school when he was in college. And that opportunity allowed him to see the legacy of Ginsburg at the school she left behind.
“In the high school, in the second or third floor, there’s a room dedicated to Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and the Mock Trial team and law study classes at that high school take place there. If you ever been in that high school, and you see the diversity of that high school, and the spirit of that high school, it shows you why Ruth Bader Ginsburg was the woman she was,” he said.
“In her work, in her life, she was not trying to put people down or divide them; she was trying to raise people up. And when you bring people up, you bring everyone up.”
Public Advocate Jumaane Williams spoke about how people need to move forward. He said that often when people talk about Ginsburg, they, at the same time, try to destroy the things she stood for. And he wants to make sure that doesn’t happen.
“I want to make sure that we are doing the best we can to keep the legacy of Ruth Bader Ginsburg alive. And that means that even if you’re tired, you have to keep pushing forward for those who are the least among us and fighting for those who haven’t got equality and equity,” he said. ” I know it’s a scary time and I know there’s a little bit of darkness, but my hope is that we can be the light moving forward. We can take some of the light that she left us to protect those who need protection and to disagree where we need to disagree. And keep pushing forward. She did that for so many of us. Yes, for women, but for all of us. Let’s make sure we don’t forget the next generation because she didn’t forget about us.”