NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Mayor Bill de Blasio says the city will conduct a 90-day review of “all symbols of hate” on city property following last weekend’s events in Charlottesville, Virginia.
The mayor has already ordered the removal of a granite marker honoring Henri Philippe Pétain on the Canyon of Heroes on Morris and Broadway in Manhattan. Pétain was convicted of treason in connection to helping the Nazis lead thousands of the Jewish faith to their deaths.
Brooklyn Assemblyman Dov Hikind brought the marker to de Blasio’s attention back in May.
“This was very personal to me to remove a collaborator with the Nazis,” he said.
“These plaques are here to give recognition to people that have done something, who have contributed. So to me, this is offensive,” resident Feisal Khan told CBS2’s Janelle Burrell. “It seems to me this should be removed.”
The review will be conducted by “relevant experts and community leaders,” who have not yet been chosen, CBS2’s Dave Carlin reported.
It’s prompting some New Yorkers, like on on Twitter to demand, “Who makes the final decision? You? Are you the new Morals & Values Police?”
The mayor was unavailable Thursday, so CBS2 demanded answers from City Council Speaker Melissa Mark Viverito.
“I commend that, and I look forward to helping in providing any sort of information or feedback,” she said, adding she did not know who will be on the panel or how the final decision will be made.
Meanwhile at Bronx Community College, the college president said the school will be removing and replacing the busts of confederate generals Robert E. Lee and Thomas Jonathan “Stonewall” Jackson after requests from community members.
“What we have is a symbolic gesture of hate, at the very least, hurt,” said city Councilman Fernando Cabrera (D-14th).
“History can repeat itself and it’s just, I think it should be taken down,” said student Nina Vasquez.
The college president has not yet given an indication as to when exactly those monuments will come down.
In Brooklyn, St. John’s Episcopal Church has removed two plaques honoring Lee.
The larger of the two plaques was placed outside St. John’s Episcopal Church by the United Daughters of the Confederacy in 1912. It commemorated the spot where Lee is said to have planted a tree while serving in the Army at Fort Hamilton in New York in the 1840s, two decades before he became commander of the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia.
The plaque marked a tree that was a descendant of the one Lee is believed to have planted. A second plaque made note of that. Workers used power tools to remove them Wednesday.
Violence broke out Saturday in Charlottesville after a loosely connected mix of white nationalists, neo-Nazis and other far-right extremists assembled to protest the city’s decision to remove a towering statue of Lee.
Authorities said Heather Heyer, 32, was killed when a man plowed his car into a crowd of counterprotesters.
While some agree with the mayor’s push, others ask where should the line be drawn?
“You can’t erase history,” one woman said.
“With the city in uproar with what’s happened in Charlottesville, I think they should look at it with closer eyes to see what it really stands for,” another person said.
“History is history,” Staten Island resident Herb Carpiniello said.
“Let’s stop worrying about it,” said Marc Pachiollo. “Let’s start moving forward and look at the big picture.”
President Donald Trump tweeted Thursday morning saying, “Sad to see the history and culture of our great country being ripped apart with the removal of our beautiful statues and monuments.”
“You can’t change history, but you can learn from it,” he said in another tweet. “Robert E Lee, Stonewall Jackson – who’s next, Washington, Jefferson? So foolish!”
As the debate rolls on across the country, Frank Massaro says there is a solution that could satisfy both sides.
“I think the monuments should move and go in a museum to preserve their historical nature,” he said.
CBS2 reached out to de Blasio’s office to find out what criteria they will be using to determine which plaques and monuments across the city should be removed, but are still waiting for a response.