You are reading

Several Queens Electeds Call for Removal of City Hall’s Thomas Jefferson Statue

The fate of the statue of Thomas Jefferson in City Hall will be decided by the Public Design Commission. A public hearing is scheduled for Monday (Photo: NYLCV)

Oct. 14, 2021 By Max Parrott

Several Queens legislators have called on a city panel tasked with overseeing public art and architecture to vote to remove a statue of Thomas Jefferson in the City Council chambers as a form of reckoning with his legacy as a slaveholder.

The 11-member city Public Design Commission will hold a public hearing Monday in which it will decide whether to relocate the statue from its prominent location in the Council’s side of City Hall.

Ahead of the vote, the Council’s Black, Latino and Asian Caucus, chaired by Queens Councilmembers Adrienne Adams (D-Jamaica) and I. Daneek Miller (D-St. Albans) sent out a statement asking the commission to put an end to the statue’s presence in City Hall. The caucus also includes Francisco Moya (D-Elmhurst) who is a vice co-chair.

“Our caucus has stood at the forefront of efforts to ensure that the real history of America — whether reflected in words or symbols — is truly genuine to all those who lived it,” members of the caucus wrote.

The statement continued to call for “the individuals memorialized within the confines of our People’s House [to] be reflective not only of the best traditions of our city’s history and its diversity but unquestionable character.”

Though criticism of the statue’s presence stretches back to the early 2000’s, the push gained momentum in June 2020, when Council Speaker Corey Johnson (D-Manhattan) sent a letter to Mayor de Blasio calling for its removal in the midst of the protests over George Floyd’s death.

In the letter, the speaker said the statue is “inappropriate and serves as a constant reminder of the injustices that have plagued communities of color since the inception of our country.”

Johnson’s opinion of the statue is not shared by all councilmembers. Councilman Joe Borelli (R-Staten Island) told the Daily News that he was against removing one of the nation’s Founding Fathers from the chambers.

The Design Commission will ultimately decide its fate.

Adams told the Queens Post that she had not heard where the members of the Design Commission stood on the issue, but was optimistic that they will listen to the wishes of the caucus and speaker. She added that she would like to see a woman of color represented in the statue’s place, suggesting abolitionists like Harriet Tubman or Sojourner Truth or civil rights leader Fannie Lou Hamer.

“It would mean dignity as we go about doing the business of the people in the people’s house as Black people whose ancestors suffered at the hands of slaveholders,” Adams said.

The Jefferson statue at city hall is a copy of the statue by French sculptor Pierre-Jean David d’Angers that stands in the Capitol rotunda of the U.S. Congress. The New York statue was presented to the city in 1834 by naval commander Uriah Philips Levy.

Controversy materialized around it in 2001 when then-Councilmember Charles Barron (D-Brooklyn) said that it should be replaced with an image of Malcolm X, calling Jefferson “a pedophile” who “raped his slave Sally Hemings.”

Two decades later, the removal of the statue from the Council chambers would represent another step in the city’s effort to confront racism in the context of the nation’s historical figures.

“The true history behind Thomas Jefferson is good and bad. The good stuff is there — it’s always been there, but we need to tell the whole history if we’re going to celebrate monuments and statues,” Adams said, suggesting that the history of African Americans in U.S. history does not get memorialized enough.

Members of the public can sign up to testify at the Design Commission’s public hearing at https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAI

email the author: [email protected]
No comments yet

Leave a Comment
Reply to this Comment

All comments are subject to moderation before being posted.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

Recent News

BP launches new advisory panel for youth to become civically engaged in the future of Queens

In an effort to get more young people involved in civics, Queens Borough President Donovan Richards has created a new advisory panel known as the Youth and Young Adult Council to introduce the “youngest and fiercest” community advocates to both community service and organization.

Members of the advisory body will advocate concerns through means of community engagement by participating in one of two cohorts. The first will be made up of high school representatives between the ages of 13 and 17, while the second cohort will be comprised of young adults between the ages of 18 and 25.

‘Where do we go now?’ Michaels set to close its doors in Fresh Meadows next month

The Michaels located at 187-04 Horace Harding Expwy. in Fresh Meadows will be permanently closing its doors on Feb. 23. The announcement that Michaels will be leaving the Fresh Meadows Shopping Center has led to an outpouring of reactions from many community members.

“We know this is disappointing to our customers in Queens, but we hope to continue to serve them at our other locations in New York City or online at Michaels.com,” a spokesperson for Michaels said in a statement to Patch.com.

Queens senator holds Lunar New Year celebration at Tangram in Flushing

Hundreds of revelers joined state Senator John Liu for a Lunar New Year celebration Friday night at Tangram in Downtown Flushing. The event featured free food from 25 local restaurants, as well as musical and cultural performances and giveaways.

Liu was joined at the event by several local leaders, including Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz, Assemblyman Edward Braunstein, Councilwomen Sandra Ung and Linda Lee and many more. Many of the leaders spoke about the importance of this celebration to the Queens community as they celebrated the start of the Year of the Rabbit.

These Queens eateries are participating in the upcoming NYC Restaurant Week

NYC Restaurant Week is underway, so nix that skillet and bring family and friends to your favorite neighborhood spot, or get inspired and break bread somewhere new and different. During this special citywide culinary event, food-lovers will enjoy curated menus and prix-fixe prices that are easy on the wallet.

Bookings began on Jan. 17 and are available until Feb. 12, and you can reserve a table at 30 participating Queens restaurants, along with hundreds more across the five boroughs.

Flushing BID launches free online raffle to support local businesses in the community

The Flushing Business Improvement District (BID), on Friday, Jan. 20, announced the launch of Lucky7, a free online raffle to celebrate the Lunar New Year, promote local businesses, and bring shoppers from other regions to downtown Flushing. 

“This event is to celebrate the culture in Downtown Flushing. The food culture, shopping culture, but most importantly to celebrate the Lunar New Year culture in Downtown Flushing,” said Dian Yu, executive director of the Flushing BID. “This is a unique opportunity for people not familiar with Downtown Flushing to truly experience the food and fun that’s only available in Flushing.”

Queens lawmaker reintroduces legislation to make Lunar New Year a federal holiday

As the Asian American community prepares to begin celebrating Lunar New Year on Sunday, Jan. 22, Queens Congresswoman Grace Meng on Friday reintroduced a package of legislation to commemorate the holiday. 

Meng’s legislative Lunar New Year package includes the Lunar New Year Day Act, which would establish Lunar New Year as the 12th federal holiday recognized across the United States. It also includes a resolution, “Recognizing the cultural and historical significance of Lunar New Year,” that commemorates the long history and explains the cultural importance of the holiday. 

Lunar New Year ‘special celebration’ held at Queensborough Community College in Bayside

Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz joined Councilwomen Sandra Ung and Linda Lee on Wednesday, Jan. 18, for a special celebration in honor of the Lunar New Year at the Student Union Building at Queensborough Community College in Bayside.

Ung escaped the Cambodian genocide as a child, and her family emigrated to the United States when she was 7 years old. Now she represents Flushing with its enormous Asian American population. She said she is proud to see how many Lunar New Year celebrations she sees around the city compared to when she first arrived in Queens.

BP Richards, local leaders speak with small business owners in Flushing in effort to improve the neighborhood

Queens Borough President Donovan Richards joined several Queens leaders Wednesday morning for a walking tour through Flushing to get input from the community on how to improve the neighborhood.

The Jan. 18 tour comes in the wake of public safety concerns in downtown Flushing. While crime was a main concern among the business owners Richards spoke with Wednesday, there were other areas they wished to see improvements in across the area, including traffic and sanitation issues.