About a week ago, the governor canceled construction that would have put the monument in Rockefeller Park, but protesters said that location would take away from the neighborhood and asked that the community have a voice in the process.
There was a rally planned for Monday over his new plan, but it turned into a celebration of an announcement made a few hours before by the governor’s office and the Battery Park City Authority, CBS2’s Lisa Rozner reported.
The Chairman for the BCPA said “Over the past two weeks we have heard two things clearly and consistently: the love that our community harbors for its parks and public spaces, and its desire to honor the enduring efforts of essential workers over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic… 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 to select a site and design for a welcome and world-class monument our essential workers so richly deserve.”
“Community members put their bodies in front of bulldozers and won. Now our essential workers will get the monument that they truly deserve!” tweeted Rep. Jerry Nadler, who represents parts of Manhattan and Brooklyn.”
In a triumph for the community, @bpca_ny will be establishing an advisory committee that includes local stakeholders to examine the location and design of the proposed Essential Workers Monument for Battery Park City. I appreciate the agency being willing to listen to residents.
— Rep. Nadler (@RepJerryNadler) July 12, 2021
This victory belongs to @BPCNA_official and @CommunityBoard1. Community members put their bodies in front of bulldozers and won. Now our essential workers will get the monument that they truly deserve!
— Rep. Nadler (@RepJerryNadler) July 12, 2021
He joined Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer and other elected officials Monday afternoon
“We don’t have a specific location for the monument at the moment, nor should we. Given time, our community leaders and essential workers should guide us to the right place,” Nadler said.
“When the community has input it is the only way to get something right for the community, city and country,” Brewer added.
The rally was held next to the Irish Famine Memorial, which has been mentioned as one possible new location.
In a letter to the Battery Park City Authority, the Battery Park Neighborhood Association recognized hundreds of people who spoke out against the initial plans. It said “today’s announcement confirms Governor Cuomo’s and BCPA’s commitment to green urban design as well as our recovery and healing from the COVID-19 pandemic…an open process will ensure that these cherished spaces are protected and enhanced while we honor those who made enormous sacrifices throughout the pandemic.”
Community Board 1 tweeted, “We look forward to hearing more about the Advisory Committee. Optimism abounds!’
— Manhattan Community Board 1 (@CommunityBoard1) July 12, 2021
Initial renderings from the governor’s office showed the COVID-19 essential worker monument would be called “The Circle of Heroes,” and include an eternal flame and 19 red maple trees symbolizing different essential workers, from food workers to firefighters to teachers.
It would also have a large plaque that includes the governor’s name at the top.
“For him, it’s just a big plot of land. For us, it’s our front yard our back yard, a place to go home,” said Tammy Meltzer, chairperson of Manhattan Community Board 1. “In an ideal situation, it will be a far larger public process.”
“It doesn’t create a rushed monument to meet an artificial timeline. That part of the plan is fantastic and we’re supportive,” added Battery Park City resident Eric Jaese.
Nadler said he believes it would have to be scaled back to fit inside Battery Park City, adding it should go up at COVID-19’s epicenter, in a neighborhood like Elmhurst, Queens.
Rozner spoke with residents and first responders outside Elmhurst Hospital.
When asked if he’d go to Lower Manhattan to see the statue, Elmhurst resident Dr. Ilhyun Jung said, “No. Doing some financial aid to the front workers is better.”
“For someone who is also a nurse, that’s a very big thing, so nice,” added nurse Chelsea Ecejo, who said she would make the trip to Lower Manhattan.
“I think the people who were impacted by COVID, whether that’s essential workers, people who have families who suffered and died, I think they have to be able to see that,” resident Joe DiStefano said. “I think to put it Downtown seems like a political move just out of convenience.”
The monument was originally scheduled to be open by Labor Day, but the Governor’s office says that no work will happen until the newly formed committee selects a site and design.