By Rebecca Henely
U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-Forest Hills) and City Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras (D-East Elmhurst) say the deteriorating statue adjacent to Queens Borough Hall depicting a man stepping on two women-shaped creatures is sexist and should be sold, but others say the statue is a work of art and want it restored.
Weiner and Ferreras were joined by members of women’s organizations at the intersection of Queens Boulevard and Union Turnpike in Kew Gardens Friday as they spoke against the statue. Titled “Triumph of Civic Virtue,” it was sculpted by Brooklyn-born artist Frederick MacMonnies for City Hall Park, where it was unveiled in 1922. It stayed there until then-Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia had it moved to Kew Gardens in 1941. The statue has since deteriorated and has visible cracks in its base and figures.
Weiner called the statue “offensive” because it depicts a man stepping on two sirens who represent “Corruption” and “Vice.” He said the city would be better served selling the statue than raising funds to restore it.
“It doesn’t represent civic virtue,” Weiner said. “It represents an eyesore.”
Ferreras said the statue showed women as weak and inferior to men and contended female victims at the domestic violence center en route to the Queens Family Justice Center, at 126-02 82nd Ave. in Kew Gardens, should not have to see the statue when they are getting out of the Kew Gardens and Union Turnpike stops of the E and F subway lines across the street.
“This is not how we should be depicted on any corner of Queens,” she said.
Yet others have expressed interest in seeing the statue kept where it is and restored. A Facebook page to fix it has more than 130 members. Some Queens residents at the event said the statue was a work of art and argued that the female figures were not meant to be real women but allegories.
“These are not human women,” said Richmond Hill-based architect Glenn Urbanas. “These are sea serpents.”
Weiner, however, said even if the female figures are an allegory, they are from an allegory that is steeped in sexism and not appropriate for the 21st century.
“This is not about art,” Weiner said. “I believe in art. I believe in public art.”
Weiner said he listed the statue on Craigslist. But the Craigslist ad was “flagged for removal,” meaning a user or an administrator marked it as prohibited or in the wrong category to be sold on the site, and was no longer visible as of press time Tuesday.
Reach reporter Rebecca Henely by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-260-4564.