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Plaza Dedicated to Queens Women Opens With Modest Plaque and No Fountain

By Ewa Kern-Jedrychowska | August 23, 2017 8:24am
 A plaque dedicated to women at the newly-restored
A plaque dedicated to women at the newly-restored "Women’s Plaza in Queens."
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DNAinfo/Ewa Kern-Jedrychowska

KEW GARDENS — Queens women now have a public plaza honoring them, which replaces a controversial statue denounced by some as sexist.

The plaza, at the intersection of Union Turnpike and Queens Boulevard near Queens Borough Hall, is where the Triumph of Civic Virtue statue previously stood for about 70 years. The monument, which showed Hercules standing on top of the sirens of Vice and Corruption, was moved to Brooklyn's Green-Wood Cemetery in 2012.

But when the space officially reopened Tuesday in Kew Gardens after a $960,000 renovation, some locals said they were disappointed it only featured a small dedication plaque and had no fountain.

The plaque, measuring roughly 17.5 inches by 8.5 inches, attached to the side fence reads: “This fountain plaza is dedicated to the women of Queens."

The late former Queens Borough President Helen Marshall, who came up with the idea to replace the statue with a public plaza honoring the borough's women, envisioned their names inscribed on the base of the statue. 

She also wanted to revive the fountain.

The reopened plaza drew mixed reactions from residents.

Andrea Crowford, a lawyer who lives in Kew Gardens, said she would like to see “a piece of public art” at the plaza.

“If indeed it’s dedicated to the women of Queens, there should be something," she said.

But others said they were happy that the plaza, which briefly reopened last month when Mayor Bill De Blasio moved his office to Queens for a week, finally became available to local residents.

"We’ve been looking forward to it for quite some time and we are impressed how beautiful it is," said Grace Anker, the owner of a local pottery studio, adding that in her opinion, the Civic Virtue statue was "offensive and sexist." 

Some, however, disagreed and insisted the statue should have never been moved from Kew Gardens.

“Clearly, the plaza is only a shadow of its former self without the statue and it’s unfortunate that the borough president’s office couldn't put more efforts towards making that happen,” Jon Torodash, a software engineer who in 2013 unsuccessfully ran for City Council as a “Civic Virtue candidate," said after the statue was taken to Brooklyn despite protests from Queens Community Board 9.

Queens Borough President Melinda Katz said Tuesday that it was important to "move on."

“We wanted to make sure that this became open for folks to be able to use," she said.

"We’ll have to see how we develop it in the future but right now my main goal was to make sure that this will be called the Women’s Plaza, no longer the former site of Civic Virtue," she added.

During the Tuesday event, Katz cited many examples of successful women who hailed from Queens, including Geraldine Ferraro, Cyndi Lauper, Susan Sarandon and Estee Lauder. 

As part of the lengthy restoration funded by the offices of Katz and Mayor Bill de Blasio, the stonework of the base has been cleaned. The plaza now also features newly installed lighting and benches. 

"It’s beautiful and bright and it's a wonderful place to sit and have lunch and gather your thoughts," Katz said. 

Photos: DNAinfo/Ewa Kern-Jedrychowska

Former Queens Borough President Claire Shulman, who also attended the event, said she was pleased that the plaza is now dedicated to women, but disappointed that there was no fountain.

“I thought I was going to come here and get wet,” she joked. “I hope that we can raise the money to put a fountain in this,” she added.