NEW YORK — Last month, as COVID-19 numbers continued to fall, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced a ticker-tape parade to honor those essential workers who helped guide the city through the pandemic.
“We’re always going to remember the pain and the tragedy of COVID,” the mayor said at a news conference. “No one is ever going to forget those we lost and what families are still going through.”
A week later, Gov. Andrew Cuomo countered with his own announcement.
“This Labor Day 2021, in a couple of months, New York state is going to open the ‘Circle of Heroes Monument’ to essential workers,” Cuomo said.
But while the ticker-tape parade went forward as promised, Cuomo’s plan to feature 19 red maple trees and an eternal flame at the southern tip of Manhattan almost immediately hit the rocks.
What You Need To Know
- Gov. Cuomo was hoping to build an essential worker monument in Battery Park City by Labor Day, but the community rejected it after not being consulted
- Battery Park City residents say there are already so many memorials in their neighborhood and cited a lack of available green space
- The Cuomo Administration still maintains a memorial will be built in Battery Park City, but others are not so sure
When bulldozers showed up in Battery Park City to start clearing trees, local residents blocked them, claiming they were not consulted about the location, a green space where many of their children play.
“Enough. It’s just enough. We deserve the right to have a public input process,” Manhattan Community Board 1 Chair Tammy Meltzer said. “This is our front lawn, our back lawn, our place where people are dancing right over there because it’s open space. And open space is so valued in a dense city.”
Battery Park City is state-owned land, meaning city procedure can be bypassed, which Cuomo has been able to use to his advantage for memorials before.
However, in this case, Cuomo claims “The Essential Worker Commission,” made up exclusively of union leaders who are staunch allies of the governor, voted for the Battery Park City location. That vote was held behind closed doors, and sources said there was no public record of how it was conducted or how each labor leader voted.
Battery Park City residents expressed concern that there are already so many memorials nearby, including the Holocaust Museum, the 9/11 Memorial & Museum, the Tribute to Irish Hunger, and a memorial to those who were lost to Hurricane Maria, which struck Puerto Rico in 2017. While each of these is sacred onto themselves, local residents say they start to lose their meaning when you start to have too many memorials.
“I am not convinced that Lower Manhattan is the right place for this,” Meltzer said. “Battery Park City has more memorials per square inch than any other place on the city. So that, in itself, is troubling.”
Many elected officials from Queens believe the memorial should be located in Corona or East Elmhurst, communities that were hardest hit by COVID-19.
After backing off the original location, this week the Cuomo Administration announced it was going back to the drawing board, with a new design and a location to be determined. It will not be completed by Labor Day.
.@GeorgeTsunis says the Essential Workers Monument in Battery Park City will not be completed by Labor Day, as @NYGovCuomo originally promised.— Zack Fink (@ZackFinkNews) July 12, 2021
The first site chosen by Cuomo was rejected by the community after they were excluded from the selection process. pic.twitter.com/wq2t7w8PEm
In a statement, George Tsunis, the Cuomo-appointed chair of the Battery Park City Authority, said, “To continue incorporating public feedback into the process, we will put together a new and expanded advisory committee comprised of local stakeholders, essential worker representatives, and others to review options within Battery Park City.”
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