De Blasio suggests adding contextual plaques to controversial city statues

Posted On Tue, August 29, 2017 By

Posted On Tue, August 29, 2017 By In Policy

Mayor de Blasio via Wiki Commons (L); Columbus Circle’s Christopher Columbus statue via Eden, Janine and Jim/Flickr

Peter Stuyvesant and Christopher Columbus might stick around if Mayor de Blasio’s “plan B” regarding controversial statues takes shape, according to the Post. In response to a proposal from City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito to remove Central Park’s Columbus statue based on accounts that he enslaved and killed indigenous people he met during his explorations, the Mayor said that many of the monuments in question may receive plaques that put their history in context instead of being completely razed. This came just moments after he announced that he’ll still be walking in the Columbus Day Parade as it’s about “ethnic pride.” He also urged concerned parties “to take a step back” and not “prejudge” before an official city commission is assembled to review such monuments.

Peter Stuyvesant, Stuyvesant SquareMonument to Peter Stuyvesant in Stuyvesant Square via edenpictures via photopin

Following the events in Charlottesville, Mayor de Blasio announced a 90-day review of possible “symbols of hate on city property.” In the 12 days since, advocacy efforts have launched to remove an East Harlem statue of Dr. James Marion Sims, who achieved his title as the father of modern gynecology by performing experiments on slaves without consent and without anesthesia; Columbus Circle’s Christopher Columbus statue; and all statues and naming rights bearing Peter Stuyvesant’s name over his religious intolerance, specifically towards Jews.

The Mayor implied that many of these efforts are premature, as the city has not “even named the commission” who will conduct the review. He plans to assemble the panel within the next few days and expects their analysis to determine that many statues should be left alone. “I think there’s been a misunderstanding of what options could be utilized. There’s more than one way to address this. I don’t think anyone should leap to any conclusions. They should see how this commission does its work and what it presents.”

While some statues will indeed be removed–the busts of Confederate leaders Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson are already set to come down from CUNY’s Hall of Fame for Great Americans in the Bronx, and a marker in the Canyon of Heroes for French Nazi collaborator Henri Philippe Pétain is expected to meet a similar fate–the Mayor believes explanatory plaques will help put others in historical context. When asked if he’ll serve as the final decision maker, he said he’s “ready to be,” according to NY1, but added that “we have to look at the laws, and we have to look at what city agencies are involved. This is uncharted territory.”

[Via NYP and NY1]


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