Bay Ridge

Malliotakis calls de Blasio statue commission a waste of time

September 12, 2017 By Paula Katinas Brooklyn Daily Eagle
The Christopher Columbus statue is shown at Manhattan's Columbus Circle at W. 59th Street in the background, Sunday Aug. 27, 2017, in New York. AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews

A special commission formed by Mayor Bill de Blasio in the wake of recent events in Charlottesville to study statues and monuments in New York City to determine if they should remain or be taken down is a waste of time, according of the mayor’s likely Republican opponent.

Assemblymember Nicole Malliotakis (R-C-Bay Ridge-Staten Island) blasted de Blasio for putting together the Mayoral Advisory Commission on City Art, Monuments and Markers, charging that the mayor’s time would be better spent on such pressing issues as transit problems and homelessness.

Malliotakis had previously criticized de Blasio for not pushing back against a statement made by City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito that the city should at least look into taking down the statue of Christopher Columbus standing in Columbus Circle.

The new commission “really isn’t needed and probably shouldn’t exist,” according to Malliotakis.

“For over a century New Yorkers have lived with many of the statues that grace our city. They only have become an issue because Bill de Blasio chose to make them one. Creating divisive issues is wrong; it’s bad for the city and its citizens,” Malliotakis said in a statement.

The mayor, meanwhile, expressed confidence that his new commission will judge each monument on its merits.

“I’m confident that this process will produce a conversation capable of examining our public art through the accurate, contextual historical lens that it deserves,” the mayor stated when he announced the names of the commission’s members on Sept. 8.

The co-chairmen are Ford Foundation President Darren Walker and Department of Cultural Affairs (DCLA) Commissioner Tom Finkelpearl. The members include Harry Belafonte, the singer and civil rights activist; Jon Meacham, Pulitzer prize-winning biographer of Jefferson and Jackson; and Michael Arad, architect and designer of the World Trade Center Memorial.

Over the next 90 days, the commission will develop guidelines on how the city should address monuments seen as oppressive and inconsistent with the city’s values, according to the mayor’s office.

City agencies with relevant roles will provide technical and policy expertise. The commission’s review process will include opportunities for public engagement, including a public forum and a digital survey available on DCLA’s website.

The commission will issue its recommendations to the mayor by the end of the year. The recommendations will be posted publicly on the city’s website as will the mayor’s final decision.

“There’s an important conversation taking place right now about history and representation in public art, monuments and markers. This diverse group of experts will be creating a thoughtful set of guidelines that acknowledge the complexities of history and the values that matter to us as New Yorkers. The commission will also make specific recommendations for a select few monuments and markers that have prompted understandably passionate public discourse,” de Blasio said in a statement.

The commission was organized partly in response to the violence that took place in Charlottesville, Virginia last month when white nationalists who gathered in that city to protest plans to remove a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee clashed with counter-protesters.

Three people were killed in the melee.