Community Rallies For Civic Virtue
By STEVEN J. FERRARI
Community leaders including (from left) CB9 chair Andrea Crawford, Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley, Councilman Peter Vallone Jr. and CB9 District Manager Mary Ann Carey, rallied in front of “The Triumph of Civic Virtue” on Dec. 8. Photo by Ira Cohen.
Queens residents upset with the City’s decision to allow “The Triumph of Civic Virtue” to move to a Brooklyn cemetery rallied to voice their displeasure.
The Dec. 8 rally, led by Councilman Peter Vallone Jr. (D-Astoria) outside Queens Borough Hall, where the statue sits, called on the City to not only leave the statue where it stands, but to have it restored as well.
“They took the Queensborough Bridge, they’re taking this statue,” Vallone said. “What’s next? The Unisphere?”
The City Design Commission on Nov. 13 approved the plan to move the statue to Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn. According to a spokesperson for Green-Wood Cemetery, the cemetery and the family of sculptor Frederick MacMonnies will pay for the transportation, renovation and preservation of the statue.
“The relocation of Civic Virtue by Frederick MacMonnies to Green-Wood is part of a public-private initiative to ensure the long-term preservation of the statue,” a City official said. “Civic Virtue will remain accessible to the public.”
A key point of contention for the officials gathered at the rally was what they called a lack of communication from the City about the decision. Andrea Crawford, chair of Community Board 9, said the board did not receive notice of the Design Commissions intention to vote on the plan.
“We did not know about the hearing,” Crawford said. “We certainly would have been there had we known.”
Vallone said he believed the City had been acting in secret in regards to the statue from the beginning.
“The Community Board knew nothing about it, but somehow the cemetery in Brooklyn knew about the meeting,” he said.
Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley echoed Vallone’s comments.
“Deciding to move the statue without allowing for public comment is an injustice,” she said.
Crowley also noted that she wanted to see public art remain public, not be given to a privately-funded entity. She said that, every year, the City gives millions of dollars to commission new artistic ventures, but cannot find the money in the budget to renovate the statue, which has stood outside Queens Borough Hall since 1941.
“The City should maintain its existing art,” Crowley said.
Both Vallone and Crawford said they have tried to get a cost estimate to renovate the statue from the City, but have not received a response.
“I can’t get any answers,” Vallone said.
Some residents in attendance called the statue part of the landscape in Queens and that removing it would mar the community.
“This statue brings softness and culture to an urban area,” Beth Watkins, a 35-year resident of Kew Gardens, said. “There aren’t many communities like Kew Gardens left. This is a nice setting for the statue.”
Vallone and Crowley also addressed the controversial nature of the statue, which some have called sexist because of its depiction of a man – the personification of civic virtue – standing over two women, meant to represent vice.
“I think they don’t understand the art behind it,” Crowley said.
“I’m the father of two daughters,” Vallone asserted. “If I thought this statue was sexist, I wouldn’t be here.”
Another resident in attendance, Mary Reilly, agreed.
“How can you find this offensive in 2013, with all the things happening in the world?” she questioned. “I think it’s a beautiful piece. What’s it going to do in a cemetery?”
Reach Managing Editor Steven J. Ferrari at (718) 357-7400 Ext. 122 or email@example.com.