Triumph of Civic Virtue, a statue near Queens Borough Hall that depicts a nude man standing on the necks of two sirens depicting corruption and vice, might be on the move for the second time in its 90-year history.
Calling it “misogynistic” and “sexist,” Congressmember Anthony Weiner and Councilmember Julissa Ferreras, chair of the Women’s Issues Committee, have asked the city to sell the statue on Craigslist.com to raise funds rather than restore the weather-worn marble and alabaster. Mayor Fiorello Henry LaGuardia had Civic Virtue removed from City Hall Park to Kew Gardens in 1941 after growing tired of looking at the figures backside each time he left City Hall.
“Mayor LaGuardia had it right when he banished this offensive statue from City Hall Park. Queens residents don’t want this sitting in our backward any longer,” Weiner said. “This statue is neither civil nor virtuous – and it’s time for it to go.”
Born in Brooklyn, sculptor Frederick MacMonnies, most famous for his life-size statue of Nathan Hale that faces City Hall, created Civic Virtue in 1922. The removal of the controversial statue has been an on-going issue for local leaders and politicians since its move to the borough including an unsuccessful bid by former borough president Claire Shulman in 1987. Mary Ann Carey, district manager for Community Board 9 in Kew Gardens, believes the statue should be conserved, calling efforts to have Civic Virtue removed “misinformed.”
“If you go online and read about it, you can see that figure is not stamping on women. It is a representation. I see it as a piece of art,” said Carey.
With advocates for both removal and preservation, there are no current plans to remove the statue. In a letter to Edna Wells Handy, the Commissioner of the Department of Citywide Administrative Services (DCAS), Weiner makes the case that the statue has lost its timeliness.
“What might have at one time been seen as a socially acceptable demonstration of our desire to stamp out vice and corruption is simply not appropriate today,” said Weiner.
A spokesman for DCAS responded saying, “We have received the congressmember’s suggestion and are reviewing it.” There is no word on when any decisions will be made regarding the statue.