Adams pushes statue commission to honor minorities

Beep says immigrants, LGBTQ, people of color wrongly ignored

November 22, 2017 By Paula Katinas Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Borough President Eric Adams is calling on the city to erect statues and monuments in tribute to members of “underrepresented” communities. Photo courtesy of Borough President’s office
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The commission appointed by Mayor Bill de Blasio to look into whether the city should tear down statues and monuments that pay tribute to controversial historical figures should also be focusing its attention on erecting memorials honoring underrepresented groups like immigrants, the LGBTQ community and people of color, according to Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, who submitted written testimony to the blue-ribbon panel’s hearing.

The Mayoral Advisory Commission on City Art, Monuments and Markers held a hearing at Borough Hall on Nov. 21 to seek public input on which of the city’s statues and monuments should stay and which should go.

In his testimony, Adams recommended that the commission expand its mandate to include investigating whether certain monuments, markers, or statues could be renamed to honor underrepresented groups and if new monuments could be built.

Adams also said that if the commission isn’t interested in his idea, he would work with his fellow borough presidents to make it happen. 

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“There has been wide public outcry about the need to revisit existing monuments that honor individuals with checkered pasts, and it is an important conversation that must take place. At the same time, we must build up our communities to recognize the rich and diverse history of individuals that strove against all odds to improve the quality of life of countless during a time when their efforts went largely unrecognized, and subsequently, were not honored by the decision makers that often did not look like, or experience the same New York City, as them,” Adams wrote in his testimony. 

New York “has more than enough venues to honor these individuals or movements,” Adams wrote. 

The borough president also suggested a few possibilities. “Imagine, for example, the Ruth Bader Ginsburg Municipal Building in Downtown Brooklyn, the Lena Horne Bandshell in Prospect Park, or perhaps the future archway in Sunset Park named in honor of NYPD Detective Wenjian Liu,” he wrote. 

De Blasio organized the commission partly in response to the deadly violence that took place in Charlottesville, Virginia in August when white nationalists who had gathered in that city to protest plans to remove a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee clashed with counterprotesters. Three people were killed.

The controversy over statues in New York went into overdrive when Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito suggested publicly that the city should consider tearing down the statue of Christopher Columbus in Columbus Circle.

Mark-Viverito’s statement was met by an avalanche of criticism and scorn by Italian-American organizations who pointed out that the statue was a gift to the city by their forefathers.

The Mayoral Advisory Commission on City Art, Monuments and Markers has been mandated by de Blasio to 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.

The commission will issue its recommendations to de Blasio by the end of the year.

Adams, meanwhile, has been calling for a re-evaluation of historic designations in the U.S. Army Garrison at Fort Hamilton for more than two years.

In July of 2015, Adams wrote letters to the U.S. Department of the Army and to members of Congress demanding that General Lee Avenue and Stonewall Jackson Drive at Fort Hamilton be renamed on the grounds that the military base should not be paying tribute to men who fought in the Civil War to preserve slavery. 

Both Lee and Jackson served at Fort Hamilton in the 1840s, long before the Civil War. Lee was the base’s engineer from 1841 to 1846. Jackson arrived at Fort Hamilton in 1848.

Fort Hamilton, which was built in 1825 and is located in Bay Ridge, is currently the only active military base in New York City.

Adams recommended that a panel of historians and local leaders be formed to determine if the names of Lee and Jackson deserved to be memorialized at the fort. 

The U.S. Army refused the request to strip the names of Lee and Jackson from Fort Hamilton.


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