Former Civic Virtue Statue Site Becomes Eyesore, Kew Gardens Residents Say
QUEENS — It was called an eyesore before, but now it's turned into a real mess.
About eight months after a controversial statue on Queens Boulevard was removed and taken to a Brooklyn cemetery, the site where it once stood has become little more than a dirty plaza surrounded by a graffiti-covered fence, residents say.
The Triumph of Civic Virtue statue, which depicts Hercules with the sirens of Vice and Corruption, was moved to Green-Wood Cemetery last December, despite protests from some local residents, City Councilman Peter Vallone and Community Board 9.
"It's terrible," said Andrea Crawford, a Kew Gardens resident and vice chairwoman of Community Board 9, referring to the site where the statue was once located. "It's an eyesore, it's nasty and it's getting tagged with graffiti."
The statue, known as “Fat Boy” or “Rough Boy," and fashioned by Frederick MacMonnies in 1919, had been in Kew Gardens since 1941, after Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia moved it from City Hall Park. It was later denounced by some as sexist and in recent years fell into disrepair.
Jon Torodash, a Kew Gardens resident who advocated for keeping the statue in Queens, said he reported the graffiti to the city, but no one showed up because the plaza has no address.
"The people that wanted Civic Virtue gone seem to not care about empty dirty pit that they left," Crawford said.
Queens Borough President Helen Marshall has been pushing for a women’s memorial to replace the statue. Her office is currently in negotiations with the departments of Design and Construction and Citywide Administrative Services, said Dan Andrews, a spokesman for Marshall.
He said renderings that were presented to Marshall "were not acceptable to the borough president."
"She would like to see it as a place where people can sit and reflect on the contributions of different women whose names she had wanted engraved there," Andrews said.
The proposed renderings, Andrews said, did not include the women's memorial. Marshall would also like the fountain to be restored at the site, but the renderings did not include it. They called for flower plantings instead.
Torodash, who is running for City Council as a "Civic Virtue candidate," said it was a mistake to move the statue and he said he still hopes it will be brought back to Queens. He also said the move was too expensive.
The city, according to the long-term loan agreement with Green-Wood Cemetery and copies of contracts with various contractors, paid nearly $100,000 to build a custom armature to lift the statue. That sum also included a portion of the cost of its later renovation.
In addition, the cemetery paid about $165,000 in transportation costs and $27,500 for an expert supervising the process.
“That was completely unnecessary,” said Torodash. “If they wanted to conserve it for as cheap as possible, all they had to do was to keep it in place and conserve it on the site.”
But Julianne Cho, a spokeswoman for the Department of Citywide Administrative Services, said "the fountain and the underground plumbing were also in need of repair, which would have resulted in additional costs."
“The relocation of Civic Virtue by Frederick MacMonnies will ensure the long-term preservation of the sculpture, which has been deteriorating and is in need of treatment," Cho said in an email.
"Through this public-private partnership, Civic Virtue will remain fully accessible to the public and the sculpture will be restored for the first time in decades, so it can remain for future generations to enjoy,” she added.
Meanwhile, the renovation of the statue has been completed, said Colleen Roche, a spokeswoman for Green-Wood Cemetery, where MacMonnies' relatives are buried.
“Green-Wood is very proud to provide a beautiful publicly accessible home for Civic Virtue and to be responsible for its ongoing maintenance for as long as the City of New York allows the cemetery to be its guardian," Roche added.
Bringing the statue back to Queens "is not part of the plan," Andrews said.