Reporting Al Jones
NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – Congressman Anthony Weiner is taking a stand against a statue in Queens that has been a source of controversy for nearly 90 years.
“Triumph of Civic Virtue” has stood on the corner of Queens Boulevard and Union Turnpike, near the Queens Borough Hall, since 1941. The 20-foot marble fountain, designed by renowned sculptor Frederick MacMonnies and carved by the Bronx’s Piccirilli Brothers, was relocated to Kew Gardens after standing in Manhattan’s City Hall Park for 19 years.
“Triumph” was apparently exiled to Queens by Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia who reportedly grew tired of being “mooned” by the statue on a daily basis.
1010 WINS’ Al Jones with Rep. Anthony Weiner who says the statue does not represent civic virtue
The statue features a nude, muscled man holding a sword behind his head standing atop two bare-chested mermaids, who look more like Medusa than Ariel, slithering at his feet.
The statue is meant to portray civic virtue triumphing over vice and corruption, however, many have found it offensive for decades. Its allegorical portrayal of vice as female caused a stir following its unveiling in 1922 — which was just two years after the 19th Amendment was passed.
“It doesn’t represent civic virtue of any sort, it represents an eyesore,” Weiner said. He adds that what passed for clever symbolism in 1920 is now “sexist.”
“What they see is this 20-foot man stepping on two women, and that’s what’s registered, and that’s what they walk away with,” Councilwoman Ferreras said.
NYU professor Carol Krinsky said the statue is an example of artistic allegory, and it’s not meant to be taken literally.
“These are not women being stepped on,” she told CBS 2′s Tony Aiello. “These are representations of evil, they are allegories of vice.”
Weiner said the statue is simply out of place in this day and age.
“The allegory grew out of a sexist notion,” he said.
Some community leaders, who for years have been looking to restore the decaying statue, want “Triumph” to stay. One architect calls the statue “priceless art.”
“We should be looking to restore and preserve it, not desecrate and destroy it,” Kew Gardens resident Richard Iritano said.
The head of Community Board 9, Mary Ann Carey, agrees.
“We should revere it, and be proud of it, and conserve it,” she said.
“This isn’t about art,” said Weiner. “People can choose to view the things that they like – - no one’s saying art should not be created. But, it’s a question of whether it should be on display in Queens as somehow a demonstration of the art that we celebrate. It clearly isn’t, and I think we should get rid of it.”
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