New York’s Race to Build Monuments Runs Into Friction on the GroundBreaking News
tags: New York, historical memory, monuments, womens history
(Thumbnail image via New York State Museum's Twitter)
A vote this month over one of New York City’s new, more inclusive monuments became so combative — with audience members shouting “How dare you!” — that the acclaimed artist who won the commission walked away from the job.
And many Catholics were incensed when City Hall omitted Mother Cabrini, the patron saint of immigrants, from the first group of women to be honored by the new statues, with the actor Chazz Palminteri calling the mayor’s wife a “racist.”
A planned Central Park monument to women’s suffrage, featuring Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony, was criticized for excluding black women. So Sojourner Truth was added to the design — then more than 20 academics objected in a letter that the grouping would be misleading because the white suffragists’ rhetoric “treated black intelligence and capability in a manner that Truth opposed.”
Under Mayor Bill de Blasio and his wife, Chirlane McCray, the city is aiming to build monuments at an unusually rapid rate to honor women, people of color and others previously overlooked. But the effort has become far more contentious than expected, as a diverse, vocal and highly opinionated city fights over the legacy it should leave in bronze and stone.
Tensions have dramatically increased in recent months as the mayor aims to fast-track the construction of more than a dozen new monuments. Arguments have broken out over who should be honored, who should create the statues, what they should look like and where they should be located. Some have questioned, for example, why a steel sculpture depicting Shirley Chisholm, the nation’s first African-American congresswoman, will be placed at an entrance to Prospect Park, which was not part of her Bedford-Stuyvesant-based district. (The city says the site is cost-effective because it takes advantage of a coming construction project at the park.)
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