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While the borough was cleaning up after Hurricane Sandy, a city agency approved a resolution to send a much-maligned statue packing to Brooklyn.
“The Triumph of Civic Virtue,” a statue looming large near Borough Hall in Kew Gardens, is heading for its final resting place at Green-Wood Cemetery, where descendants of the statue’s sculptor, Frederick MacMonnies, are buried.
The statue, depicting a nude man personifying civic virtue standing over the two sisters of vice and corruption, has stood outside Borough Hall since the 1940s after Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia moved it from City Hall, where it supposedly offended him.
Criticism of the statue from the LaGuardia days crossed the river right along with it, as former Borough President Claire Shulman tried to get it moved and former U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner called the statue “offensive” to women — prior to his sexting scandal.
Borough President Helen Marshall’s office confirmed the city Public Design Commission approved the relocation of the statue and said the space will now honor women.
“Borough President Marshall is pleased that the statue will be restored and will work to see that the base of the statue, which will remain here, will be transformed into a public sitting area with benches and landscaping,” said the spokesman. “She would also like the public area to pay tribute to outstanding women who have made a significant contribution to our borough and city.”
But not everyone is so quick to applaud the relocation of the stone carving. City Councilman Peter Vallone Jr. (D-Astoria) said the authorization to move the statue was done in secret, and he believes there should be time for public comment.
“This is a historically significant statue and the only one of its kind that I know of,” he said. “It’s an allegory for virtue triumphing over vice and corruption — a message that we need today.”
The councilman, who has two daughters, said he does not believe the statue debases women and said “if you think this is anti-woman, then there are lots of other statues out there that you must oppose.”
Vallone has been outspoken about this statue in the past and said he has never heard from any residents who are offended by the statue and believe it should be moved.
“It should be restored to its original beauty, with a working fountain,” he said. “The city would never let this statue decay the way it has if it was in Central Park. And it certainly would never be moved.”
Vallone said he is waiting to hear back from the Design Commission, as well as the Department of Citywide Administrative Services, to find out how the decision was made to move the statue and what he can do to keep “Civic Virtue” in the borough.
Reach reporter Steve Mosco by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-260-4546.
©2012 Community Newspaper Group
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