October 14, 2021
From the New York Daily News
By DAVE GOLDINER and MICHAEL GARTLAND
NEW YORK DAILY NEWS |OCT 13, 2021 AT 4:50 PM
An obscure city panel may vote to remove a statue of Thomas Jefferson from its place in the City Council chambers amid controversy over the Founding Father’s history as a slaveholder.
The city Public Design Commission will decide Monday whether to loan the statue to the City Historical Society, effectively ending its nearly two-century run in one of Gotham’s most revered spots.
The “long-term loan” of the statue is listed as a so-called consent item, meaning the 11-member committee of architecture and museum notables will vote up or down after reviewing any public comments submitted virtually.
“The individuals memorialized within the confines of our People’s House be reflective not only of the best traditions of our city’s history and its diversity but unquestionable character,” the City Council’s Black, Latino and Asian Caucus said in a statement.
New York City Councilman Joe Borelli (R-Staten Island) disagreed with removing one of the nation’s Founding Fathers from the chambers.
“This is more progressive war on history,” said the Staten Island rep. “Why wasn’t this put on the consent calendar? I thought we were having this big public discussion about monuments. Apparently not.”
City Council Speaker Cory Johnson and four other council members signed a letter to Mayor de Blasio in 2020 asking for the Jefferson statue to be removed. They acted soon after the police killing of George Floyd, which sparked nationwide protests for racial justice.
The 1833 cast-iron statue was created by Pierre-Jean David and was donated to the city a year later by Jefferson admirer and Navy commandant Uriah Phillips Levy.
The statue first came under fire in 2001 when firebrand then-Councilmember Charles Barron (D-Brooklyn) called for it to be replaced with an image of Malcolm X.
Its removal from the place of honor in the City Council chambers would mark another milestone in the campaign to reassess public monuments and memorials dedicated to historical figures with decidedly controversial histories.
Most of the movement’s energy has focused on removing statues of Confederate officials and generals. But many activists say America should also take another look at honors for Founding Fathers, who also owned slaves and held opinions that would be considered virulently racist in modern times.
Traditionalists counter that removing statues of any historic figure with a checkered past amounts to sanitizing history.Dave GoldinerNew York Daily NewsCONTACT
Dave Goldiner is a political reporter at the New York Daily News. A 30-year newsroom veteran, he believes he is the only reporter to cover both the Sept. 11 terror attacks and the death and funeral of South African freedom icon Nelson Mandela on the ground.Michael GartlandNew York Daily NewsCONTACT
Michael Gartland covers the New York City Housing Authority, housing and homelessness. During his 20-year career, he’s covered politics, crime and religion for The Record in NJ, The Post and Courier in SC and Newsday, among others. His work has earned local and national journalism awards. He lives in Upper Manhattan with his wife and two children.