Controversial statue may move to Brooklyn


| lguerre@queenscourier.com |

THE COURIER/Photo by Liam La Guerre
THE COURIER/Photo by Liam La Guerre

The city approved a move that will Triumph of Civic Virtue statue to a Brooklyn cemetery.

A city agency is sneakily planning to restore and move a controversial Queens statue, which has been bashed as sexist by politicians, to what could be its final resting place — a Brooklyn cemetery.

The Department of Citywide Administrative Services (DCAS) plans to bury the near century-old Triumph of Civic Virtue statue, which sits near Borough Hall, in the privately-owned Green-Wood Cemetery said Councilmember Peter Vallone Jr.

However, the DCAS did not inform residents or Community Board 9.

“We’re against it,” said CB9 Chair Andrea Crawford. “We believe that we should have been contacted. Whether the officials like the artwork or not, it belongs to the people of Queens.”

After Vallone was informed the about the fate of the 22-foot public artwork, the councilmember wrote letters to DCAS Commissioner Edna Handy to keep the statue where it is.

“The statue used to have a working fountain and kids used to play in it,” Vallone said. “That’s the way it should be now.”

Vallone praised the city for finally trying to restore the piece, which is crumbling, discolored and covered with pigeon droppings, but questioned the process of how the city transfers public property to a private entity.

The city has held firm.

“The city is looking into options that preserve the sculpture and best serve the community,” DCAS said.

The statue, which was originally completed in 1922, was designed by renowned New York sculptor Frederick MacMonnies and placed in front of City Hall.

It features a bare Hercules, who represents virtue, standing firm as mythical sirens, which symbolize vice and corruption, curl around his legs.

The artwork was given to Queens in 1941, to commemorate the opening of Queens Borough Hall, and because then Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia couldn’t tolerate seeing a “naked man” outside City Hall every day, according to Vallone.

A few years ago, then Congressmember Anthony Weiner and Councilmember Julissa Ferreras viciously attacked the statue, saying that it degrades women because the Sirens embody feminism.

“As chair of the Women’s Issues Committee, I felt that [way] because you see this huge man stepping on two women,” Ferreras said. “I’m glad that it’s leaving Queens. It’s a great location in the cemetery.”

Weiner placed the statue on craigslist for sale, with shipping not included, and said the proceeds would go to benefit the city.

However, since then, officials from CB9 have fought to keep it, and Vallone has joined the battle to defend the statue of the heroic demi-god.

“They want it moved, because it’s sexist,” Vallone said. “I don’t agree with that at all. Hercules represents virtue and the sirens represents vice and corruption. And we need more of that [virtue] in government today.”

The family of MacMonnies is going to pay for the statue to be restored and transported to Green-Wood, where the sculptor’s family members are buried, but not MacMonnies himself.

“Green-Wood Cemetery has offered to be the permanent home for Civic Virtue,” Richard J. Moylan, president, said. “While we have had discussions with city officials, nothing has been confirmed at this point in time.”

Borough President Helen Marshall, another public official known to have found the statue distasteful, has now said she is disappointed it won’t be returned to Queens and talked about the future of the site in Kew Gardens.

“Informal discussions have already taken place about the future of the site,” Marshall said. “It is my desire and my wish to create a public plaza and sitting area that will honor a woman or women from Queens.”