While many residents and community activists hoped plans for a monument to essential workers in Battery Park City perished along with the political demise of former Governor Andrew Cuomo (who resigned in disgrace in August), his successor may have other ideas.
While visiting the World Trade Center site last Wednesday as part of celebrations for the twentieth anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, newly installed governor Kathy Hochul told a reporter from NY1 News that her predecessor “was right – there must be. have a Memorial. “Asked about local opposition to Mr. Cuomo’s original plan, Governor Hochul added,” It will be very easy for me to reach out and get the views of the community, but it definitely has to be. produce.
Ms Hochul’s announcement comes following months of controversy, which began on June 24, when then-Governor Cuomo announced he was planning to create a monument (located in Rockefeller Park), to honor the service and sacrifice of essential New York workers during the COVID-19 pandemic. This disclosure surprised Lower Manhattan community leaders and elected officials, who had not been consulted by the governor, nor his original advisory committee on the Monument to Essential Workers – a panel that did not include any residents of downtown. city ââamong its members and never held a meeting. single public meeting. New revelations that the governor planned to begin construction within 48 hours, without any public comment or review, and to complete this project by Labor Day, drew fierce criticism.
Residents of Battery Park City responded with fury, organizing a four-day, 24-hour protest in Rockefeller Park, in which local parents and children camped in scorching heat and torrential rain in early July to prevent the start of demolition work. . The same group, united under the social media banner of Pause the Saws, has also started to prepare for litigation, seeking legal remedies to delay construction work.
BPCA President George Tsunis responded to these concerns by showing up at the protest and announcing: “This site is no longer on the table.” He also called several days of meetings with community leaders, looking for a compromise solution, focusing on possible alternative sites within the community.
This process culminated on July 12, when Congressman Jerry Nadler led a rally at the Irish Hunger Memorial – the lawns next to which were proposed as a possible alternative site, after the Rockefeller Park plan was scrapped. Hours before this event, Tsunis announced another compromise, saying, “We will be setting up a new expanded advisory committee made up of local stakeholders, key worker representatives and others to look at options within Battery Park City to select a site and design for a welcome, world-class monument that our essential workers so deserve. We want the grieving families of lost essential workers to know that Battery Park City respects their sacrifice and contribution, but the residents of Battery Park City are confident that a potential litigation by residents would further prolong the process. “
The composition of this new advisory committee was announced on July 28. The 17 panel members include Mr. Tsunis and two other members of the BPCA board of directors: Martha Gallo (vice president of the Authority, who lives in Battery Park City), and Catherine McVay Hughes (who lives in the Lower Manhattan and is a past chair of the Community Board 1).
The advisory committee also includes nine residents of Battery Park City and local leaders who are not affiliated with the Authority. These include three members of Community Board 1 (CB1): Tammy Meltzer (Chair of the Board), Justine Cuccia (who chairs the Battery Park City Committee of CB1) and Robin Forst (a public member of CB1, who is also Vice President of the Gateway Plaza Tenants Association). They will be joined by Glenn Plaskin, a longtime advocate for Battery Park City tenants. The panel will also include five members of the Battery Park City Neighborhood Association, the grassroots organization formed as a result of the Pause the Saws protest: Tristan Snell, Kelly McGowan, Gregory Sheindlin, Rafael Torres and Kavita Beren – all of whom attended the Rockefeller Park demonstration.
The fact that a majority of this panel is made up of Battery Park City residents may represent an important step in the direction protesters and community leaders originally called for, in terms of transparency and consultation with local leaders. .
Mr. Tsunis said, âBattery Park City’s new Essential Workers Monument Advisory Committee brings together a wide range of local voices as well as representatives of essential worker groups and other stakeholders to develop recommendations for a monument. worthy of the service of those who sacrificed so much for all. from U.S. I look forward to building on the productive and community dialogue of the past few weeks to deliver an appropriate and meaningful monument in the public space of Battery Park City that all New Yorkers can enjoy.
However, a point of contention seems to remain. As Mr. Tsunis noted, he sees the work of the committee as aimed at “realizing an appropriate and meaningful monument in the public space of Battery Park City”.
At the CB1 meeting on July 28, several board members expressed reservations about the location of the essential workers monument anywhere in Battery Park City. These concerns stem from the fact that the community was among the least affected by COVID-19 in New York State, and the local shortage of affordable housing means that very few essential workers can live here. (In a related development, several elected officials in areas of New York where COVID-19 has taken a more severe toll have volunteered to have the Essential Workers Monument located in their districts.)
A resolution passed at that meeting urged the governor to “place the monument in a location outside of Battery Park City” and “use the monument as an opportunity to add green space and trees to a community that lacks these. amenities â.
The same resolution demanded that “the BPCA commit in writing that no further memorials or monuments will be built in Battery Park City and that revisions to the bylaws be made so that the pledge is binding on future governors and iterations. of the BPCA â.
This latest injunction referred to the fact that Governor Cuomo had already built several other such tributes in the community in recent years, including the Hurricane Maria Memorial (at Chambers Street and River Terrace) and the Mother Cabrini Memorial (near of South Cove). Each of them, as well as the Essential Workers Monument, seemed calibrated to win favor in politically important constituencies as they faced (before his sudden departure from office last month) with a difficult candidacy for a fourth term in office. 2022. In each case, Battery Park City appears to have been chosen for no more compelling reason than it is one of the few New York City neighborhoods over which the Governor exercises direct control. As Mr. Tsunis admitted at a July 7 meeting of the Battery Park City Committee of CB1, “we are suffering from commemorative fatigue.”