Mayor Bill de Blasio shed some light Tuesday on the city’s efforts to address growing concern over controversial statues and memorials throughout New York.
As elected officials increasingly criticize sites such as the Christopher Columbus statue at Columbus Circle and Confederate-named streets at Fort Hamilton, the mayor said the process for deciding their future must be handled with care.
Last week, he announced a 90-day review of “all symbols of hate on city property,” along with a commission to recommend changes. De Blasio reassured voters that the process will be an open public forum.
“The best thing New York City can do is create some kind of ground rules, create some kind of model,” de Blasio said during an unrelated news conference at Tweed Courthouse. “We want people to propose what they want to happen and how to go about it.”
Monuments and tributes to the Confederacy are at the forefront of the national conversation after violence erupted over plans to remove a statue of Gen. Robert E. Lee in Charlottesville, Virginia, on Aug. 12. Last week, two memorials honoring Lee at the Fort Hamilton church he attended during the 1840s were removed. Bronx Community College also removed busts of Lee and Stonewall Jackson from its Hall of Great Americans.
De Blasio said the commission will weigh the facts and consider input from New Yorkers as well as stakeholders involved with the memorials in question. The goal is to create a standard that can be applied across the board.
“When it’s all over, what I hope we have is something where every New Yorker can look at it and say, ‘That’s a fair standard, that makes sense,’” he said.
On Monday, City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito called for the removal of an East Harlem statue of Dr. J. Marion Sims, “the father of gynecology,” who performed operations on enslaved women without their consent.
She also called for the removal of the Columbus statue in Columbus Circle, which has been met with widespread resistance. Republican City Councilman Bob Capano called the mayor’s commission a, “stupid idea that is a waste of the taxpayer’s money and will only create problems, not solve them.”
Mark-Viverito, however, told reporters Tuesday that the Columbus statue needed to be reevaluated.
“I know some people may take offense of that but for many of us that come from Caribbean islands, we see him as a controversial figure,” she said.
Meanwhile, the Brooklyn congressional delegation continued efforts to convince the Army to reverse its decision not to rename General Lee Avenue and Stonewall Jackson Way at Fort Hamilton. The Army contends the street names were part of reconciliation.
Reps. Yvette Clarke, Nydia Velazquez and Hakeem Jeffries rallied with Bay Ridge residents outside the fort Tuesday morning, reiterating their disapproval of the Confederate reminders.
“We believe these monuments are an insult and a magnet for the white supremacist movement,” Clarke said.