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Queens Leaders Fuming Over Plans to Move Beleaguered Statue to Brooklyn

By Nigel Chiwaya | July 20, 2012 12:33pm
The Triumph of Civic Virtue has been in Queens since 1941.
The Triumph of Civic Virtue has been in Queens since 1941.
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Wikipedia/Jim Henderson

KEW GARDENS — Some Queens politicians and community leaders are fuming over plans to move the crumbling 100-year-old "Triumph of Civic Virtue" statue to Brooklyn, despite several others calling for the statue's removal just a year ago.

The statue, which depicts a nearly-naked man standing over two topless mermaids, sits on the corner of Queens Boulevard and Union Turnpike and has been decried as an "eyesore" and "sexist" by politicians.

But City Councilman Peter Vallone Jr. recently sent an letter to the Department of Citywide Administrative Services requesting that it be restored and kept in Queens.

“I can't imagine a statue in Central Park being allowed to deteriorate the way this one has,” Vallone, who learned of the city's plan to move the statue to the Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn earlier this week, told DNAInfo.com.

The sculpture was created by Brooklyn native Frederick William MacMonnies in 1919. According to Vallone, the MacMonnies family has offered to pay for the statue's restoration if it is moved to Green-Wood, where several members of the family are buried.

Vallone said that the city has offered to place the statue "permanently on loan" in Brooklyn, but argued: "Permanently on loan means permanently not in Queens county."

"It was given to the people of Queens," Andrea Crawford, chairperson of Community Board 9 told the Wall Street Journal. "Whether you like the statue or not it is an important piece of public art by an important sculptor."

The statue has received criticism since it was first placed in front of City Hall in 1922. That year, an issue of Popular Mechanics quotes an observer saying: "It ain't art to have a guy stepping on a girl's neck that way."

Last year, former congressman Anthony Weiner called the statue "sexist" and Weiner and councilwoman Julissa Fererras called for it to be sold on Craigslist.

"It doesn't represent civic virtue of any sort," Wiener told CBS New York, "It represents an eyesore." 

But Vallone disputes that. "It's not sexist. It's artwork," said Vallone, who explained that the statue depicts Hercules standing over sirens, not actual women.

"If you oppose this piece of artwork, then you oppose every statue of Perseus holding up the head of Medusa," Vallone said, adding: "People need to lighten up."