Last month, Mayor Bill de Blasio ordered a review of New York City’s controversial statues, declaring in a post-Charlottesville fervor that all “symbols of hate” would need to be scrutinized by a committee if they want to maintain their place in public spaces.
De Blasio may have tossed off the announcement in hopes of accruing quick plaudits from voters happy to see New York living up to its progressive reputation. But the matter of decreeing who stays and who goes has not been nearly as easy as de Blasio might have hoped. Now a new debate has been spurred: What exactly is the best way to handle monuments to personages with a history of racism, sexism, or oppression — most notably, the massive pillar topped by Christopher Columbus in Columbus Circle — that are nevertheless woven tightly into the city’s fabric?
Backtracking from his initial impassioned tweets that monuments could start coming down soon, the mayor was quick to come up with the alternate proposal of affixing explanatory plaques to some problematic statues.“I think there’s been a misunderstanding of what options could be utilized,” the mayor told reporters. “There’s more than one way to address this. I don’t think anyone should leap to any conclusions. They should see how this commission does its work and what it presents.”