But, as CBS2’s Andrea Grymes reported Monday, the project is facing growing criticism.
On what was a hot summer day, parkgoers looked like they were simply enjoying Rockefeller Park. But by sitting in the shadow of construction equipment and orange fencing, they were actually taking a stand against the governor’s latest pet project.
“If you care about something, you gotta stand up for what’s right and what’s in your heart,” Battery Park City resident Anna Lala said.
Upset residents came out early and peacefully protested to stop work they heard was supposed to start Monday.
Last week, Cuomo unveiled plans to build an essential worker monument in a corner of the park. The “Circle of Heroes” includes an eternal flame, 19 red maple trees symbolizing different COVID-19 essential workers, and a large plaque that includes the governor’s name at the top.
“We want to honor them. We just want to make sure that we’re honoring them in the right way,” resident Tristan Snell said.
Neighbors like Snell said plans for the beloved piece of the park caught them completely off guard.
“We were all blindsided by this. There was no community involvement. There was no community input. There was nothing,” Snell said.
“I’m just really upset because there’s so much green space here with shade for the children to play, when there is a ton of concrete surrounding us that they could work with,” resident Lynne Andrews said.
The land is actually state property, exempting it from the city’s long approval process for such projects.
The governor’s announcement came a week after political nemesis Mayor Bill de Blasio announced the city would host a ticker tape parade for essential workers.
Battery Park is also where Cuomo put the Mother Cabrini memorial last year.
That came after the mayor’s commission excluded the popular saint from its list of women who would be honored with statues.
“The issue here is notice and opportunity to be heard. The people deserve that,” resident Lee Pham said.
A spokesperson for the governor said the location was chosen in an open process by 23 leaders representing essential workers. Critics note those leaders are all politically important union leaders, with no one representing residents.
The governor’s spokesperson noted the monument will take up just 2% of the park’s current lawn space. A price tag for the project was not offered.