NYC Council Mulls Removal of Artwork Honoring Founding Fathers

In a recent development, legislators in New York City have suggested the dismantling of monuments and artworks dedicated to figures such as George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Christopher Columbus due to their contentious historical backgrounds.

The Cultural Affairs Committee of the New York City Council, steered by the Democrats, has arranged for a public discussion on Tuesday concerning a proposition to take down artworks “that represent individuals who were involved in slavery either through ownership or direct economic benefits, or who engaged in gross violations against native communities or other acts constituting crimes against humanity.”

According to the proposed law, if the Public Design Commission acknowledges that a statue or monument glorifies a person guilty of crimes against humanity but decides against its removal, it mandates the city to affix an “informative plaque” delineating the controversial actions of the depicted historical character.

The proposal also calls for the placement of plaques in public areas including sidewalks nearby schools that are named after individuals who meet the specified criteria.

The initiative for this proposed bill was taken by Councilmember Sandy Nurse, a Democrat from Brooklyn, and it has garnered support from 16 other legislators.

In a related development, a representation of Thomas Jefferson was recently removed from the City Hall since he, the principal author of the Declaration of Independence and the third president of the nation, owned slaves.

However, this move by the Cultural Affairs Committee has been viewed by critics as an overextension of their progressive stance. 

Angelo Vivolo, the president of the Columbus Heritage Coalition, argued in defense of Columbus, emphasizing his migrant status, and promised to resist any efforts to eliminate monuments dedicated to the renowned Italian explorer from municipal parks, as reported by the New York Post.

The celebrated discoverer of the new world, Columbus, is alleged to have inflicted severe harm on indigenous communities during his expeditions.

Joann Ariola, a Republican from Queens, criticized the initiative as a radical left attempt to alter the historical narrative of the nation, according to the New York Post. She stressed the significant influence these historical figures had on the nation and condemned efforts to portray the country’s origins as nefarious. She urged for a halt to the removal of these statues which have stood for many years commemorating the contributions of these individuals to the country.

Notably, Washington, who was a slave owner himself, is commemorated through numerous monuments scattered across city lands, including installations at Washington Square Park and Union Square Park.

Peter Stuyvesant, an early settler in New York and a Dutch governor who owned slaves, is memorialized through a statue at Stuyvesant Park, and a well-known secondary educational institution bears his name.

Other notable figures who owned slaves and have educational establishments named after them in the city encompass John Jay (John Jay College) and DeWitt Clinton (DeWitt Clinton High School), as highlighted by the New York Post.

Previously, ex-Mayor Bill de Blasio instituted a team of 18 individuals to evaluate monuments paying tribute to notable personalities, to ascertain if any should be removed due to their participation in cruel acts.

This committee eventually resolved to dismantle one statue of Dr. J. Marion Sims, a disputed gynecologist from the 19th century.