Today, Rep. Anthony Weiner (D -- Queens and Brooklyn), Councilmember Julissa Ferreras, Chair of the Women's Issues Committee, and representatives from local women's organizations called on the City to get rid of the sexist statue near Queens Borough Hall, Triumph of Civic Virtue, which depicts a nude man standing atop two women, and sell it on Craigslist to raise funds.
Sculpted by Frederick MacMonnies, the Civic Virtue statue has been the source of controversy in the Kew Gardens community since 1941, when then-Mayor LaGuardia moved the offensive figure out of City Hall Park to Kew Gardens. The marble statue, which depicts a nude man with standing over the necks of two woman, has been an eyesore on the community ever since.
With the passage of time, the statue has worn down significantly -- and considerations are now underway to restore the decaying, misogynistic figure. Potential repairs, according to the Parks Department, would cost tens of thousands of dollars.
Standing in front of the statue, representatives from the Eleanor Roosevelt Legacy and the Queens County Young Democrats Women's Caucus joined Weiner and Councilmember Ferreras in expressing their outrage over the offensive figure and urged the City to place the statue on Craigslist as means of raising revenue -- rather than using already scarce funds to restore it.
"Mayor LaGuardia had it right when he banished this offensive statue from City Hall Park. Queens residents don't want this sitting in our backward any longer," Weiner said. "This statue is neither civil nor virtuous -- and it's time for it to go."
"There is nothing NYC about this statue. It depicts women as weak and inferior to men- which is far from the truth- the statue has no place in a public space," Councilmember Ferreras said. "This should not be the first thing women see when getting out of the subway. The statue is located just one block away from the Queens Family Justice Center and sends the wrong message. It belongs in a museum."
Today's press conference comes in the midst of recent anti-women proposals by the new GOP-led Congress, including the "Protect Life Act," which would allow hospitals the right to refuse emergency abortions even when a woman's life at stake, and the "No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act," which would impose tax penalties on Americans with private insurance plans that include abortion coverage.
Today, Rep. Weiner wrote to Edna Wells Handy, Commissioner of Department of Citywide Administrative Services, asking that the offensive Civic Virtue statue be removed and sold.
In the letter, Weiner stated, "Rather than pouring money into restoring the statue, the city should sell it on Craigslist. I am sure the city could come up with some productive uses for the proceeds."
Full text of Weiner's letter is below:
February 25, 2011
Ms. Edna Wells Handy
Department of Citywide Administrative Services
City of New York
1 Centre Street, Floor 17
New York, New York 10007-1602
Dear Commissioner Handy:
It's time to get rid of Civic Virtue. Not the ideal, the statue. It's sexist. It's ugly. It's time for it to go. I am writing to urge you to put the statue, located next to Queens Borough Hall, up for sale and removal.
The statue has been there since 1941, when then Parks Commissioner Robert Moses and Mayor Fiorello La Guardia moved it from City Hall Park in Manhattan. From the time the statue was moved to Queens, many members of the community have objected to the sexist nature of the statue, and I agree with them.
I appreciate the wealth and diversity of arts and humanities displays in the Borough of Queens. We have museums, cultural centers, stadiums and theatres -- This statue does not contribute to the mix. It's an eyesore that depicts a nude man standing triumphantly atop two women at one of the busiest intersection in Queens.
The statue apparently wasn't appropriate for City Hall in the 1940s, and it's an insult to think that it is fine for Queens today. What might have at one time been seen as a socially acceptable demonstration of our desire to stamp out vice and corruption is simply not appropriate today. This is particularly true given the assault on the rights of women underway today in Washington.
I thank you in advance for your prompt attention and reply to this matter.
ANTHONY D. WEINER
Member of Congress