Why doesn’t a statue of a famous Queens woman replace the sexist Civic Virtue in Kew Gardens?

No plans are in place now, but a statue of a historic woman from Queens — such as former vice presidential candidate Geraldine Ferraro (at right) — might one day replace the controversial Civic Virtue sculpture that once stood in Kew Gardens.
THE COURIER/File photos

The former home of the controversial Civic Virtue statue in Kew Gardens, now in the midst of a long-awaited beautification project, will be rededicated to the women of Queens in the form of a plaque.

But some wonder if the site might someday also feature a statue of a prominent woman in the history of Queens — such as a ceiling-shattering former vice presidential candidate Geraldine Ferraro — to replace a sculpture that many found to be misogynistic from the beginning.

Queens has a handful of outdoor sculptures in public plazas and parks, most of which do not feature people. Rocket Thrower in Flushing Meadows Corona Park, commissioned prior to the 1964-65 World’s Fair, features a god-like male figure throwing a small sphere into orbit.

Gothamist reported in 2009 that there are only five statues of women in New York City. Likenesses of Joan of Arc, Eleanor Roosevelt, Gertrude Stein, Golda Meir and Harriet Tubman can be found in Manhattan.

A spokesperson for Queens Borough President Melinda Katz told QNS in an email Monday that a statue is not part of the scope of the current project. Sources familiar with the project indicated there were inquiries about putting a new statue at the location, but the plan ultimately proceeded without it.

Many famous women in American history, culture and politics have called Queens home, and it figures that one of them could potentially have their own statue at the former Civic Virtue site.

Perhaps the most famous woman in Queens history is Geraldine Ferraro, the former congresswoman from Forest Hills who, in 1984, was the first woman ever to be nominated for vice president on a major political party’s ticket. Prior to becoming a member of Congress, Ferraro taught at a public school in Astoria and later became a prosecutor in the Queens District Attorney’s office, helping it form its first Special Victims Unit.

Ferraro died in 2011 after a long battle with cancer. In her final years, she was honored with the renaming of a post office in Long Island City. The intersection of Austin Street and Ascan Avenue in Forest Hills was posthumously renamed for the former congresswoman in October 2012, as was a new public school on the Ridgewood/Maspeth border that opened in 2014.

During conversations about what to do with the former Civic Virtue site following its 2012 removal, some suggested installing a Ferraro statue there, according to Ann Jawin, director of the Center for Women of New York. She believes, however, that the idea was set aside for the time because there are many other women in Queens who have made (and continue to make) an impact locally and nationally, and could also deserve a statue of their own.

That includes someone such as former Queens Borough President Claire Shulman, the first woman elected to the office, who served 16 years at Borough Hall. At 90, she remains active as president of the Flushing Willets Point Corona Local Development Corporation.

Other famous women with Queens connections include legendary jazz singers Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Holliday, both of whom resided in St. Albans; Helen Keller, the deaf-blind activist who lived with her teacher and mentor, Anne Sullivan, in Forest Hills; and Pulitzer Prize-winning author Toni Morrison.

“The fact is that we have lots of women who came from diverse backgrounds in the past, present and future, but I kind of like the idea” of the former Civic Virtue site being rededicated to all women of Queens, Jawin said.

Such a “universal” tribute to women, Jawin noted, is appropriate considering the misogynistic nature of Civic Virtue: “The last statue was so negative to women. It didn’t specify one woman. We’re going the other way to honor the women that worked so hard for Queens and to inspire” others to do the same.