Following months of deliberation and speculation, Mayor de Blasio’s monuments commission has decided against completely tearing down any of the historical statues around the city. The monumentally anticlimactic ruling was set on Thursday, January 12, as reported by the NY Daily News. The Upper West Side will keep the controversial statue of Christopher Columbus hovering over the circle named after him. The city has decided to add a new monument there also honoring other indigenous individuals. The city will pay to put up new historical markers in and around Columbus Circle to “continue the public discourse”.
Following the fall of Confederate monuments in the south, the Mayor had promised to rid the city of “symbols of hate”. The Columbus monument was amoung the most controversial, with scores of people including Italian-Americans defending their hero, and yet other groups branding him as a symbol of genocide and colonialism.
The monument of Former President and New York police commissioner, Theodore Roosevelt, will remain in place outside the American Museum of Natural History. Half of the members on the commission voted that the statue should be moved because the Native American figures beside him are depicted as caricatures. The city promised to compromise by adding context and educational programs regarding the monument, in partnership with the museum. Also to remain in place is the marker commemorating a parade thrown in the “Canyon of Heroes” for Henri Philippe Petain. Later to become a hated Nazi collaborator as the head of Vichy France, his monument will remain but the name “Canyon of Heroes” will be changed and historical information will be added as well.
Not all monuments will remain untouched. The statue of J. Marion Sims will be relocated from its spot in Central Park out to Greenwood Cemetery, where Sims is buried. The American physician, who is touted as the “father of modern gynecology”, invented gynecological surgery techniques while experimenting on enslaved black women who did not consent to the operations they underwent. The city will add plaques to the relocated statue and the existing pedestal in Central Park explaining the history of the statue, and “provide in-depth public dialogues” about non-consensual medical experiments, particularly on colored women. In addition, the city said it will “commission new work with public input that reflects issues raised by Sims legacy.”
“Thousands of New Yorkers got involved in this process, and there’s been an important conversation going on across the city,” announced Mayor de Blasio. “Reckoning with our collective histories is a complicated undertaking with no easy solution. Our approach will focus on adding detail and nuance to — instead of removing entirely — the representations of these histories.” “And we’ll be taking a hard look at who has been left out and seeing where we can add new work to ensure our public spaces reflect the diversity and values of our great city,” he continued.