Civic Virtue Statue On The Move?
By STEVEN J. FERRARI
|The Triumph of Civic Virtue, which stands outside Queens Borough Hall, could wind up in Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn. Photo by Ira Cohen
“The Triumph of Civic Virtue,” the controversial statue that sits outside Queens Borough Hall, will reportedly be removed to Brooklyn before the end of the year.
The plan for the statue, which was relocated to Queens in 1941, was approved by the City Design Commission on Nov. 13. According to a representative of Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn, the statue’s new home, the move will occur before the end of 2012.
The Queens Borough President’s office, however, said there were still some outstanding questions before the move becomes official.
“There are still some discussions about that,” Alex Rosa, Borough President Helen Marshall’s chief of staff, said. “Some folks are still concerned about the damage the statue maintained during the storm.”
Rosa also said there was no official timeline to move the statue.
City officials stated that moving “Civic Virtue” was the best option for restoring the statue, which has deteriorated significantly over the years. In exchange for paying to restore the statue, the City would place the statue on a long-term loan to Green-Wood Cemetery.
Councilman Peter Vallone Jr. (D-Astoria), an outspoken advocate of keeping the statue in Queens, said he believed the City has been very secretive about its plans for the statue. When Vallone publicly criticized the City earlier this year for attempting to move the statue, officials denied reports of it happening.
“They were lying and I was telling the truth,” Vallone said. “It’s clear they don’t want the people of Queens to be heard.”
The Nov. 13 Design Commission meeting was announced via email one week after Superstorm Sandy hit, Vallone said, when many City Council members did not have access to their accounts. He accused the City of holding the meeting in secret to stifle opposition to the plan.
“No one knew about this meeting,” he said.
Vallone said the decision to move the statue did not represent the majority of Queens, who he believed want the statue to stay. The Councilman called out the City for the action.
“No statue in Central Park would be allowed to deteriorate like this,” he said. “It could only happen in Queens and it’s not fair.”
Sculpted by Frederick MacMonnies in 1922, the statue originally sat in front of City Hall in Manhattan before being moved to Queens by Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia. Several members of MacMonnies’ family are buried at the Brooklyn cemetery, which houses one of the largest outdoor collections of 19th and 20th Century statuary and mausoleums.
The statue has been oft criticized as sexist for its depiction of a nude man – the personification of civic virtue – standing over two women, depicting vice and corruption.
Green-Wood Cemetery’s presentation to the Design Commission included a conceptual proposal for landscaping at Borough Hall once the statue was removed. The fountain at the base of the statue, designed by Thomas Hastings, would remain in Queens according to the proposal, as the centerpiece of a green space along Queens Boulevard.
While the Borough President’s office denied that any official decision about the statue has been made, Rosa said that there had been discussions about what would replace the statue if it is removed.
“If it goes, and we’re not sure that it will yet, the Borough President would like it replaced with something the benefits the community and honor the contributions of women in Queens,” Rosa said.
Vallone said he was looking at legal options to keep the statue in Queens and was planning to hold a rally. City officials, he noted, had not returned his calls in regards to the statue, so he has not been told any official timeline for its removal.
“I just assume they’re going to put a bag over its head and remove it in the middle of the night,” Vallone said.
Reach Managing Editor Steven J. Ferrari at (718) 357-7400, Ext. 122 or firstname.lastname@example.org.