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NYC unveils plans for 4 new monuments of women, including Billie Holiday

The monuments of Billie Holiday, Elizabeth Jennings Graham, Dr. Helen Rodríguez Trías, and Katherine Walker will ensure that a public statue of a historical woman is present in each borough.

Billie Holiday, born Eleanora Fagan, will be immortalized

Billie Holiday, born Eleanora Fagan, will be immortalized with a monument in Queens, the city announced Wednesday. Photo Credit: Getty Images/Hulton Archive

City officials are putting four women where they say they belong: on pedestals.

First lady Chirlane McCray and Deputy Mayor Alicia Glen announced plans on Wednesday for four new monuments honoring women who have made “extraordinary contributions” to New York City: Billie Holiday, Elizabeth Jennings Graham, Dr. Helen Rodríguez Trías, and Katherine Walker.

The monuments are part of the She Built NYC initiative, which launched last year in an effort to reconcile a lack of female representation in public statues across the city.

“We cannot tell the story of New York City without recognizing the invaluable contributions of the women who helped build and shape it,” McCray said in a statement. “Public monuments should tell the full history and inspire us to realize our potential — not question our worth. In honoring these four trailblazers today, New Yorkers will have the opportunity to see powerful women who made history receive the recognition they deserve.”

The city first put out a request in June for nominations of who should be immortalized in the form of a monument or other work of public art. In November, She Built NYC announced the first monument would honor former New York Rep. Shirley Chisholm, of Brooklyn.

The statue of Chisholm, who was the first black woman elected to Congress, is expected to be completed in 2020 and will be placed at the parkside entrance of Prospect Park.

The additions of Holiday, Graham, Rodríguez Trías and Walker will ensure that a public statue of a historical woman is present in each borough.

“When we launched She Built NYC, we promised this would not be a ‘one and done,’ ” Glen said in a statement. “Today’s announcement marks real action by the City of New York to ensure that our public realm exemplifies the diverse and accomplished women who make this city so great.”

The statue of Holiday, one of the most revered jazz singers of all time, will be placed near Queens Borough Hall. Among other accomplishments, Holiday was one of the first black women to sing with a white orchestra.

In Manhattan, the monument of Graham will be erected near the One Vanderbilt Corridor at Grand Central Terminal. In 1854, Graham became a pioneer in the fight against racial segregation when she was arrested for boarding a white-only streetcar and refused to get off.

Bronx residents will be able to view the monument of Rodríguez Trías, who was the first Latina director of the American Public Health Association, among many other achievements in the field of medicine, at St. Mary’s Park near NYC Health + Hospitals/Lincoln.

On Staten Island, Walker will be memorialized at the Staten Island Ferry Landing. The location is fitting as it’s near the Robbins Reef Lighthouse, where Walker worked as the keeper for nearly 30 years. She’s credited with saving at least 50 lives in the decades she spent guiding ships through the Kill Van Kull between Staten Island and New Jersey.

Artist commissions will be finalized by the end of the year, with the monuments expected to be completed between 2021 and 2022.

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