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Jesse Jackson visits Brooklyn Arms Hotel ’86

March 3, 2009



In the mid-eighties the Brooklyn Arms Hotel, a welfare hotel/shelter, formerly known as The Granada was a hell hole. Drugs, prostitution, negligent parents, rats, any criminal element you wanted to find, like Ragu…It was all in there! The majority was law abiding folks who turned to the city in hard times but by this point all the symptoms of urban plight had taken over. Located on Ashland place between Lafayette and Fulton it has been written about a few times in the blogsphere. I try to stay away from rehashing what’s been previously covered by other area bloggers, so I won’t get into the history of the place, I will tell you about the time it was visited by none other than Reverend Jesse Jackson…


After the death of 4 children by fire in the Brooklyn Arms Hotel in 1986, Rev. Jesse Jackson met with Mayor Ed Koch to discuss not only the conditions of the hotel but also the shortage of affordable housing in the city. Following the meeting and media coverage that came along with it, a narcotics raid was made later that month, ten people were arrested( most likely low level dealers and users). Fast forward to the winter, word is spread around the hood that the reverend plans to come speak outside the hotel about the crime and unsanitary conditions of the shelter. On a day when Jack Frost is kicking ass first then taking names later, people are waiting patiently to the man who was with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in his last moments of life. The time has come…


Rolling down the street towards the hotel is a Rolls Royce, stopping in front, three suited men with bowties step out first, one opens the rear door and out steps Rev. Jackson, the only thing missing is theme music. Full length mink coat, diamond ring, Rolex watch; sounds like part of the wardrobe for a Puff Daddy music video shoot, except on this day it’s the reverend who’s styling in front a crowd of underprivileged folks.


Man, Jesse stepped out the car with F.O.I. security hovering over him like the Secret Service! I couldn’t believe what I saw, this man came in a Rolls Royce, finger blingin’, with a mink swingin’ to the floor. We’re out here struggling & he comes and styles on us like that… Shit, it’s good thing he had that security too, cause after seeing that, we wanted to rob Jesse…


Another old timer’s recollection:


A lot of people in the area were really disappointed in Reverend Jackson when he did that, you had people out there that didn’t even have winter coats. The conditions in that shelter were deplorable, the people in there were not only prisoners to the inhumane conditions, they had to live around felonious activity 24-7. Jesse’s message was pretty much lost; the people couldn’t get past how insensitive it was for him to show up that way.


You can’t take away the good Jesse Jackson has done over the years but since this happened he’s had more than a few transgressions and slip-ups. This one for me will always be remembered, it taught me that no one, even a so called leader, is beyond being critiqued or called out and of course because it happened right here in the hood.


6 Comments leave one →
  1. CDawgg permalink
    March 4, 2009 2:15 pm

    Interesting piece of history. Thanks for the post!

  2. March 4, 2009 5:17 pm

    Great post! An important piece of the Brooklyn Arms story which I’m sure you know is it dated back to the era of Brooklyn being a city onto itself, when the downtown area was populated by multi-million dollar theaters for live and film presentations. Every Hollywood studio had their own studio of course the LIU building is what’s left of one. But without exaggeration luxury and entertainment was all there in Downtown Brooklyn. Back then (approx 20’s-40’s) The biggest stars of the day would do shows in Brooklyn and Manhattan, and when in Brooklyn many of those wealthy celebs would stay at the Brooklyn Arms and places like it because of it’s amenities and proximity. So the fact that it was a luxury high-rise, catering to the “upper class” and was left to become a welfare hotel full of horrors is something I think about lot in regards to our present day Brooklyn. Nice of the times to link to you, too.

  3. March 6, 2009 2:45 pm

    Thank you for this story which I didn’t know.

  4. March 8, 2009 9:14 am

    thank you for this slice of history — sharing with me friends.

  5. kyle permalink
    March 9, 2009 5:40 pm

    Thanks. I didn’t know anything about this either.

  6. only if you behave permalink
    March 10, 2009 2:46 am

    Unfortunately, I was a child of the Brooklyn Arms horror. While I do not recall Jesse Jackson’s presence; however, I do remember that God awful fire as well as the drug bust. I even remembered the deaths of two young men who fell down an elevator shaft. Somehow with all of the craziness and strange swarthy characters, I have managed to walk away unscaved….well at least on the surface. While I appreciate the positive things Mr. Jackson has done. To show up to a place filled with desperation and hopelessness wearing ostentatious anything was simply in poor taste.

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