Locals Protest Cuomo’s Plan To Install Essential Workers Monument In Battery Park City


Final week, Governor Andrew Cuomo introduced {that a} monument in honor of important staff can be erected in Battery Park Metropolis by this fall. The Circle of Heroes, which was designed to “symbolize the important staff who served their communities all through the pandemic,” is because of be put in in Rockefeller Park by September sixth, and Cuomo promised it might “stand endlessly as a tribute to all that [the workers] have completed for New York in our best second of want and past.” However native residents and politicians have been up in arms because the announcement, protesting contained in the park and delaying the beginning of the challenge.

“I’ve monumental respect for important staff, however the plan right here would spoil an incredible inexperienced house in Battery Park,” mentioned Jeff, who is among the passionate native residents who’ve been actively concerned in making an attempt to dam the challenge from shifting ahead.

“We must always completely honor the important staff, however nobody who makes use of this house each day was concerned within the dialogue of the design or placement,” mentioned Sissel Juul, an area resident and scientist working in biotech on viral diagnostics and epidemiology. “It’s not that we don’t need a monument—we simply don’t wish to sacrifice extremely used inexperienced house and mature timber within the title of important staff.”

The Circle of Heroes design is meant to be composed of 19 crimson maple timber symbolizing the town’s varied important staff, together with paramedics, hospitality staff, nurses, transit staff, docs, academics, and extra. As well as, it can additionally function an everlasting flame “as an emblem of New York State’s eternal gratitude for important staff.” (You possibly can see renderings of it within the tweet beneath.)

Juul, who has been a vital employee in the course of the pandemic, was one of many individuals who launched the neighborhood marketing campaign towards the monument final week after Cuomo’s announcement.

“After I noticed the announcement of the monument, I posted it to the native public faculty dad and mom chat group and that’s actually how #PauseTheSaws began,” she mentioned. “We’re extremely happy with everybody who’s popping out to rally peacefully. We’ve had everybody from newborns to seniors take part. Folks from everywhere in the metropolis and elected officers have joined the trigger as nicely.”

Locals inform Gothamist that they really feel the challenge has been pushed forward by the state with none group enter on its location; that a number of timber will likely be taken down due to development; that there are already quite a lot of monuments on this a part of Manhattan; that they’re frightened about children being burned by the “everlasting flame;” and most of all, that the complete neighborhood depends on this park for recent air and for teenagers to get pleasure from.

“The inexperienced house and pure mild out there may be essential for individuals like me who’re important staff, and all of the households who stay round right here,” mentioned Aneil Shirke, an NYU psychiatrist who lives just some blocks away from the park in Tribeca. Shirke, who coaches little league within the park, mentioned there are nearly no different inexperienced areas within the neighborhood—it is among the largest inexperienced areas south of Central Park—not to mention one with so many timber.

“I feel inexperienced house and nature is absolutely essential to psychological well being,” Shirke, who labored with docs in the course of the disaster final 12 months, mentioned. “Residing issues restore a way of our place in nature.”

Requested how he would reply to individuals accusing protesters of NIMBYism, he mentioned, “We do not have one other house like this downtown, we simply do not. It is not that I do not need the monument in my neighborhood, it simply cannot be on the inexperienced house.” Shrike prompt different close by spots on concrete that would have been used as an alternative of this park.

A photo of kids playing in front of bulldozers in Battery Park City, and a photo of signs left in front of a fence there

Shirke is amongst these park regulars, and their kids, who’ve been going there on a regular basis this week to dam bulldozers from with the ability to break floor on the challenge. A supply tells Gothamist that whereas some electrical work has been accomplished, no in-the-ground development will occur till persons are out of the best way and it is protected to take action.

Many locals cited how essential the park was to the group in the course of the pandemic—to walk, sit down, have just a little free house at a time when social distancing was a should. Slicing down timber earlier than their time, Shirke argues, is much like the illness’s influence on people: “To kill dwelling issues in an effort to put up a tombstone is what COVID did. It is not a memorial to the parents I supported who labored by means of this factor.”

Tribeca Citizen, a group newspaper, wrote of the plans to cut down timber for the challenge, “If this goes by means of, there ought to be a cost of arborcide towards the state. I’m not joking. What sort of sane company/authorities/elected official — which claims to be a steward of the town’s inexperienced areas — fells six big, spectacular timber IN A PARK within the title of a monument to serve the general public?”

Along with the #PauseTheSaws hashtag, organizers initially made their plea by way of a Change.org petition: “Allow us to proceed to get pleasure from operating free within the grass of Rockefeller Park, and please allow us to maintain this park as inexperienced and delightful because it was meant and with out the fixed reminders of disappointment and onerous occasions.”

“The park is continually very crowded with buddies sharing the gorgeous escape. Every of us desires to seek out solitude as we create our personal escape within the present world we stay in. We wish to present freedoms to our youngsters, with out having to fret in regards to the danger of an everlasting flame burning them,” the petition continues. “Simply cease by and you will notice the bustling enjoyment every individual feels as they absorb the fantastic thing about the grass and the open house and now the heartbreaking sorrow and anger as they see the vans and staff getting ready to interrupt floor.”

State officers say that they’re dedicated to planting new timber within the park, and that varied group, union and enterprise leaders had been concerned with the choice to position the monument there. Additionally they say that the monument has already been moved from the principle part of the park right into a nook, and that the “hardscape” of the monument—together with paths, benches, and a flag pole space—will take up simply 2% of present garden house. (The worksite will take up about 10% of the park: the entire sq. footage of lawns in Rockefeller Park is 143,000 sq. ft., and the complete monument worksite is 14,000 sq. ft.)

“This plan contains the planting of 20 timber for a life-affirming monument in a vacation spot park made for all New Yorkers to get pleasure from, within the shadow of the image of New York’s resilience and openness,” Jordan Bennett, a spokesperson for Cuomo, instructed Gothamist. “The placement was chosen in an open course of by utilizing enter from the area people and 23 leaders representing lots of of 1000’s of important staff, and the positioning design permits for individuals to proceed to benefit from the park house with the hardscape utilizing simply two p.c of the present garden. We sit up for working with everybody who makes use of the general public house and to seeing generations of New Yorkers from throughout the state get pleasure from and this monument.”

Some activists counter that the one purpose Cuomo is putting the statue right here is as a result of he controls the Battery Park Metropolis Authority “and it’s the one place in NYC the place he can put this with none scrutiny.” Cuomo most just lately positioned a Hurricane Maria Memorial and a Mom Cabrini statue there. Moreover, there are different tributes within the neighborhood, such because the Fallen Heroes Memorial and the Irish Starvation Memorial, to not point out the 9/11 Museum and Memorial simply throughout the West Aspect Freeway.

As Tribeca Trib factors out, Neighborhood Board 1 made a decision final February opposing any forthcoming important staff monument be positioned in Battery Park Metropolis, and known as on Cuomo to think about different locations within the metropolis “that had been extra deeply affected” by the pandemic.

Native politicians together with Assemblymember Deborah Glick have expressed their discomfort with the best way the monument was deliberate and unveiled.

“It’s deeply regarding that the proposed Circle of Heroes monument appears to have been designed and positioned with out satisfactory enter from frontline important staff or the Battery Park Metropolis group,” she mentioned in an announcement to Gothamist. “I want to honor the large important staff who sacrificed a lot to help the Metropolis by means of this unprecedented disaster, and it’s essential that any memorial web site be designed with enter from the employees themselves and from the group by which it will likely be situated.”

“At the moment, I joined my colleagues representing Decrease Manhattan in expressing our considerations to the Governor,” she mentioned. “We perceive that the Governor’s workplace consulted with an “Important Staff Monument Advisory Committee” made up largely of union leaders, and we’ve got nice respect for organized labor, however we imagine {that a} extra public, open dialog is important for a challenge of this scope and significance.

Council Member Margaret Chin despatched a letter to Cuomo’s workplace on Monday demanding he halt development till there’s been a “correct technique of group engagement.” Her workplace mentioned that they had not obtained any response but.

“Whereas I do imagine it’s applicable to memorialize these misplaced to the pandemic, I really feel this challenge has been drafted too swiftly and is little greater than a gesture,” she mentioned. “Residents rightly level out {that a} memorial of this magnitude ought to be in a extra central location; the proposed web site lies on one of many western-most factors of Manhattan, not readily accessible by public transportation.”

Locals celebrated briefly when the bulldozers had been moved from the places that they had been for the final a number of days on Tuesday afternoon. However some instructed Gothamist they would not belief something till Cuomo makes an announcement in regards to the standing of the challenge.

“I feel it is only a ploy,” one individual mentioned. “I feel if individuals stopped occupying the park they’d bulldoze the timber instantly.”