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Marshall Pushes for Women's Memorial to Replace Controversial Statue

By Ewa Kern-Jedrychowska | December 6, 2012 9:35am

QUEENS — Borough President Helen Marshall is pushing to replace a controversial statue on Queens Boulevard with a public plaza to honor New York City women.

The Triumph of Civic Virtue statue, which depicts Hercules with the sirens of Vice and Corruption, has been standing in Kew Gardens since 1941, after Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia moved it from City Hall Park. Known as “Fat Boy” or “Rough Boy,” the monument, fashioned by Frederick MacMonnies in 1919, has been denounced by some as sexist and in recent years fell into disrepair.

And now that the artwork is moving to Brooklyn’s Green-Wood Cemetery, Marshall says the space should be used to honor the city's women.

The statue should be replaced, she said, by “a public space that will honor outstanding women that have contributed in one way or another to the city of New York.”

The names of women may be inscribed on the base of the statue, which could remain along with a fountain in the proposed memorial, Marshall said. The redesigned space would also feature seating and landscaping.

Marshall's vision of the public plaza is in the early stages, however. Her chief of staff, Alexandra Rosa, said the borough president has discussed the idea with the Parks Department, the Department of Citywide Administrative Services and the Mayor's office.

It was too early to put a price tag on the plaza, Rosa said. Still, the mayor's office was "receptive" to the idea, she said.

And while the 15-foot-high statue’s move to the cemetery was authorized last month, some elected officials and residents are upset that it is leaving the borough.

“This great work of art belongs to the people of Queens, and it should be kept in place and restored to its former glory here,” said Queens City Councilman Peter Vallone Jr., who has been fighting to keep the monument in the borough. “A statue in Central Park would never be allowed to fall into disrepair and then be taken away from Manhattan.”

Green-Wood Cemetery was chosen as the statue's new home because the artist’s relatives, including his parents and brother, are buried there. The family will pay for the transportation and renovation of the statue, Vallone said.

Some residents, too, said moving the statue was a slap in the face.

“It stinks,” said a woman who identified herself as Katherine, but did not want to give her last name. “It’s the only piece of art that’s around here and they are taking it away. It’s like taking a piece of this neighborhood away.”

And Alex Anjjar, who owns a newspaper stand on Queens Boulevard, across the street from the statue, said the Hercules is a landmark that many people use to give directions.

“You just tell people: ‘By the statue,’ and everyone knows what you mean.”

Members of Community Board 9, which voted to keep the statue on Queens Boulevard and to restore it, were also disappointed.

“No one listened to us,” said Mary Ann Carey, the board's district manager, adding that she was upset by the lack of consultation with community leaders.