. . Welcome. This posting brings together many of the issues and events relating to the City’s decision to exile Lady Liberty from Her home at Liberty/Gateway Park, which is contrary to the fully-approved 2013 Comprehensive Gateway Plaza Implementation Plan.
. . For our response to the new location In Exile assigned to Lady Liberty in late August 2019, see “McCarthy disses Lady Liberty again“.
. . ORIGINAL POSTING . .
This posting summarizes the tale of Schenectady’s Lady Liberty as of late April 2018. For a fuller discussion of the issues in the controversy over where Lady Liberty will be relocated this Spring, see our posting Bring Lady Liberty Home, which has links to important documents, relevant images and helpful photos. There are many updates to this story below this Original Posting.
. . The sign to the left states my theme when addressing the March 26, 2018 Schenectady City Council Meeting, in a Privilege of the Floor statement urging the return of Lady Liberty to her Park. The theme is a reaction to the recent claim that Lady Liberty is not modern enough to fit into the contemporary style of the Park/Plaza as now envisioned by its designer. Below is an image made to further argue the point, showing the spot (the green exclamation point) where Lady Liberty was to be returned in the Gateway-Liberty Plaza Implementation Plan, plus “modern” elements already installed with no public input or notice, contrary to the Implementation Plan, which showed more attractive (less starkly “modern”) elements in its renderings for the Central Focal sculpture and walkway lampposts; see “Pillar-ied at the Plaza” (Oct. 31, 2018) for a full discussion of another Wallinger rendering ruse:
Follow-up: In late 2018, Ms. Wallinger designed and proposed a celebration of LGBT Rights for Gateway Plaza, and chose to locate the Rainbow Pride art project approximately where Wallinger had proposed to place the “relocated” Liberty Replica in the Plaza Plan, precluding that location for Lady Liberty. [image to the right.] When it approved the Project, City Council stressed it was for a year. Ms. Wallinger immediately told them she wanted it to be permanent, and she had it built in the Spring of 2019 in a sturdy, permanent manner.
- update (April 5, 2018): This evening, the Daily Gazette Editorial Board posted “Don’t Move Lady Liberty“, saying “City officials deciding the fate of the city’s 8-foot-tall replica of the Statue of Liberty should end the tug of war over the statue and return it to where it was always intended to be, in its place of honor at the gateway to the city of Schenectady in Liberty Park.” (Click on thumbnail to the left to see the entire editorial from Friday’s Gazette.)
Background: Lady Liberty, a 100-inch tall replica of the Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor, came to Schenectady as part of a 1950 Boy Scouts of America program. Local Boy Scouts across the City and County saved up the $350 to purchase the statue. It stood in Liberty Park, which was named for the replica of Lady Liberty, until it was put into storage in August 2017, to protect the statue during the reconfiguration and reconstruction of Liberty Park, as it was expanded into Gateway Plaza. [The photo of the statue to the right was taken by the author of this posting in September 2016.] The Gateway Plaza Implementation Plan, and every draft version of it, clearly and explicitly included bringing Her back after the reconstruction, placing Lady Liberty in a prominent new location along State Street, next to the CDTA bus shelter.
Nonetheless, Schenectady Mayor Gary McCarthy told the Gazette in December 2017 that Lady “was looking for a new home,” and a group of Goosehill residents asked to use Lady Liberty as part of a Veterans Memorial in Steinmetz Park. Then, on February 24, 2018, a captioned photo of Lady Liberty in the Albany Times Union [thumbnail to the left] stated that the statue would not be going back to Liberty/Gateway Park, but would be heading to another park, probably Steinmetz Park.
. . Lady Liberty in her park, Sept. 15, 2016:
. . . . Gateway Plaza, open to the public, early 2018
Bringing the Issue to City Council. Using the handout pictured to the right of this paragraph, the proprietor of this website, David Giacalone, raised the issue of the fate of Lady Liberty at the March 12, 2018 City Council Meeting, asking the members of the Council to see to it that the Final Report of the City of Schenectady Gateway Plaza Implementation Plan is implemented as planned with regard to the replica of Lady Liberty. In 2013, the Council had approved and the Mayor signed the Implementation Plan, deeming it an official city document (Resolution No. 2013-206).
Here are three screen-shots of pages from the Final Implementation Plan. Each shows that the Plan approved by City Council and the Mayor in 2013 proposed-promised to bring Lady Liberty back to her Home:
follow-up: To see a few more examples from the Plan about relocating the Lady within the Plaza, see our posting, “Look what we found, Mr. Koldin“.
At the March 12, 2018 Council Meeting, Mayor McCarthy stated he had made no final decision on the location of Lady Liberty, but noted — perhaps because he had no engineers to blame this time — that the move was due to the [apparently recent] recommendation of “the Design Team.” For a fuller discussion of that meeting, see “The Lady and the Mayor and the Council“, which points out that Mary Moore Wallinger, a landscape architect who is also Chair of the Schenectady Planning Commission, was the primary designer of Gateway Plaza and remains so, as well as the Construction Administrator. Every alternative presented to the Gateway Plaza design steering committee and in public workshops by Ms. Wallinger in 2012 had Lady Liberty returning once construction was completed.
The March 26, 2018 City Council Meeting. At the next City Council meeting, a group of Goosehill residents and supporters of the Steinmetz Veterans Memorial plan addressed the Council and presented a Petition, supporting the placement of Lady Liberty at Steinmetz Park. Mary Moore Wallinger also spoke to the Council from the floor. Andrew Beam posted his Gazette coverage online Monday evening, “Residents jockey for Lady Liberty statue: The statue was removed from Liberty Park due to construction” (March 26, 2018). Below is an expanded Comment I left late that night at the Gazette article:
Sending Lady Liberty away from her only Schenectady home (since the statue was purchased in 1950), despite full public support in the Plan-creation process for returning her after reconstruction of the Park, greatly undermines the integrity of the process for creating important municipal projects. That is especially true when a plan involves preservation of an element of our history. And, it leaves the Council’s legislative and policy-making role frustrated by the Mayor.
Bringing Lady Liberty back after reconstruction of the Park wasn’t merely a “concept”, as stated in the article. It was so obvious a result, that it was the only alternative presented to the Steering Committee and in public workshops by its primary designer Mary Moore Wallinger, and it was fully supported by all commenters in the Workshop. As the Gazette reporter who attended the Public Workshops wrote on June 13, 2013:
“Residents . . expressed a strong desire to keep the park’s identity in line with its name: Liberty. The Lady Liberty replica has sat on its pedestal in the park for 62 years would still remain. But it would likely move closer to the State Street border.”
Lady Liberty was only removed [in August 2017] for Her protection during construction, with every expectation that she would return. The Mayor created this conflict by ignoring the adopted Implementation Plan and announcing Lady Liberty was “looking for a new home.” It is sad that the good people of Goose Hill were never told that the Lady was already spoken for. Instead, they came and stated Lady Liberty had been abandoned and neglected and has been in storage for five years.
The excuse that Lady Liberty is not contemporary enough for that Plaza is simply silly. Designer Wallinger embraced keeping the Statue in the new Park/Plaza throughout the design process. There is no symbol that better fulfills the Implementation Plan’s goal of “celebrating our past, present, and future.” Lady Liberty is Timeless.
For the full story, with images from the Plan, and photos of the Plaza, and of Lady Liberty before construction, see: http://tinyurl.com/BringLibertyHome and the updates linked to that posting.
p.s. re Ms. Wallinger: I would have liked to respond to the very misleading statement to the Council on March 26 by landscape architect Mary Moore Wallinger, the designer who changed her mind about having Lady Liberty at the new Plaza and convinced the Mayor to ignore the adopted Plan. Normally, I would have spoken after Ms. Wallinger, because she signed in just ahead of me on the sign-up sheet. However, Council President Ed Kosiur called me to speak before Wallinger (who is also the Chair of the City Planning Commission), eliminating my opportunity to set the record straight.
For example, although Ms. Wallinger omitted her original, indefensible excuse that Lady Liberty was too small to be in scale at the Plaza, she stated to the Council:
a) That the Liberty Statue was only “a small part” of the Plan. To the contrary, while small in size or footprint, Lady Liberty was a significant factor for public participants and for celebration of our City’s history. Of course, the small size belies the notion that the replica statue can somehow ruin the grand contemporization theme now embraced by Ms. Wallinger for the greatly expanded Park.
b) That “plans change.” Of course they do: initial brainstorming and concepts lead to refined and limited concepts and drafts. But, once a formal design process, with formal public participation (including a Steering Committee of “stakeholder” institutions), is adopted by the City Council and signed by the Mayor, only true safety, engineering, and financial problems traditionally are the basis of any significant change, especially without public participation in making the change. Here, there was one change: The Designer changed her public position, and wants Lady Liberty banned from Gateway/Liberty Plaza. As a result, because she is a Favorite of, and (as Planning Commission Chair) a Favor-Performer for, the Mayor, her design wish is being foisted on the City, along with her grand vision of what makes Schenectady seem “contemporary”. And,
c) That Gateway Plaza is meant to “celebrate the future” of Schenectady. That formulation truncates the original goal written by Wallinger in the Implementation Plan: “celebrate the past, present, and future” of Schenectady. [emphasis added]
- By the way, in addition to David Giacalone from the Stockade, and Mary Ann and Carmella Ruscitto of East Front Street, also speaking in support of bringing Lady Liberty back to Liberty Park was Jim Wilson, a 90-year old WWII vet who is “Mr. Veteran” to many people here in Schenectady County, and who for many years organizaed re-dedication ceremonies at Liberty Park for the Replica.
. . share this post with this short URL: https://tinyurl.com/TimelessLiberty
. . above: [L] detail from a rendering in the adopted Final Report of the City of Schenectady Gateway Plaza. showing the proposed location for the return of Lady Liberty (click here for the full rendering); [R] a photo of that location still empty and ready for Lady Liberty’s home-coming.
. . . update (March 28, 2018): On March 27, an upset Mary Moore Wallinger wrote a lengthy email letter to City Council, the Mayor, Metroplex Chairman Ray Gillen, and other officials and supporters of the move to Steinmetz Park, quite unhappy that Council member Vince Riggi had called the Lady Liberty dispute “divisive”. Ms. Wallinger expanded on her reasons for wanting to send Lady Liberty away from her home. Rather than relenting and reverting to the original Implementation Plan she had created and promoted, as a solution to avoid inter-neighborhood strife, the Friend of Gary and Ray seemed, in her email message, to be giving the Mayor another option: Placing Lady Liberty at a busy Schenectady location, with lots of foot and vehicle traffic and appropriate educational signage. Although it certainly sounds like Gateway/Liberty Plaza would fit that bill, it is clear that Ms. Wallinger is suggesting Any Place But Gateway Plaza, which she still insists would be tarred as un-contemporary if Lady Liberty were given a tiny spot there.
Follow-up (April 3, 2018) The Goose Hill Lady Liberty Petition:
To support their argument that Lady Liberty should be brought “home” to Steinmetz Park, for inclusion in a Veterans Memorial, the proponents of the Steinmetz Park plan circulated a Petition for Lady Liberty. The text of that Petition is above (click on it for a larger version). It was presented by “rebuked” former councilman Dave Bouck, to City Council at the March 26 Council Meeting. Some important points need to be made about the Petition:
- It falsely claims that Lady Liberty has been in storage for five years. And, speakers at the Council Meeting echoed that claim, saying the Statue has been long neglected and put into storage by those who now want it back in Liberty Park. In fact, the Statue was still standing on September 15, 2016, when the author of this weblog took many photos in Liberty Park, including the one to the right. Furthermore, an article by Gazette reporter Bill Buell, dated Dec. 14, 2017, indicates that construction workers removed Lady Liberty in August, 2017, to protect her during reconstruction of the Park. Why didn’t Ms. Wallinger, whose LandArtStudio is administering the construction of Gateway Plaza, set the misled people of Goosehill, and the City Council, straight on this fact?
- The Petition falsely indicates that the Statue “was the inspiration and hard work of Boy Scout Troop 66 of Goosehill,” and thus that bringing the statue to Steinmetz Park and Goosehill is “bringing it home.” The reality is that collecting the money to purchase Lady Liberty in 1950 was a City and County-wide project of several Boy Scout troops and Cub Scout packs, in addition to Troop 66, including Troop 22 in Bellvue, Troop 12 at the Halsey School on Albany Street, and Cub Scout pack 25 from Mt. Pleasant, among others.
- Mr. Bouck told the Council Meeting that the Petition had “about 200 signatures“. In fact, my count of the Petition found 154 signatures.
- In addition, despite Bouck’s stress on door-to-door canvasing for the Petition, the signatories on the 1st Page of the Petition [see image at left for upper portion of that page] just happen to all be folks at the Democratic Party Committee Meeting the prior weekend. Indeed, the 6th, 7th, and 8th signatures on the Petition (which was presented to the Council and its President, Ed Kosiur), were by Council members Ed Kosiur, John Polimeni, and Karen Zalewski-Wildzunas, none of whom had anything to say about the Lady Liberty controversy at the two Council meetings where it was brought up in Privilege of the Floor statements.
Other Lady Liberty news, from the Summer of 2018:
. .update (June 27, 2018): It is almost July 4th, but instead of returning Lady Liberty to the spot designated for her in Liberty Park in the approved Final Gateway Plaza Implementation Plan, a row of trees was planted in that spot last week (see photo above). See today’s Gazette Letter by much-honored Veteran Jim Wilson, calling for Liberty’s return on July 4th.
update (Sept. 22, 2018): See “Rally for Lady Liberty on Sept. 28“; please join us for a neighborly rally to celebrate Lady Liberty and Liberty Park at Gateway Plaza; 6 PM, at the Central Sculpture Area, where the Lady stood for 67 years. NOTE (Sept. 26, 2018): DSIC has cancelled “Groovin’@Gateway”, but we will nonetheless have a PHOTO-OP for Lady Liberty, at the same time and place. For details, see the Sept. 26, 2018 update at our webpost linked above.
- follow-up (Sept. 29, 2018): At “Photo-rally for Lady Liberty” see photos of the photo-rally, and a bit of explanation.
Continuing Crisis Means More Updates :
. . . (January 18, 2019) Yet Another Follow-up: It has been ten months since we asked Schenectady City Council and its Mayor to follow the Gateway Plaza Implementation Plan, which they adopted in 2013, and bring Lady Liberty home to Liberty Park/Plaza. So far, they have not even bothered to justify this major change in an approved Plan. Instead, they now claim that Lady Liberty has been damaged while in Protective Custody in a City warehouse, so She cannot be placed anywhere yet. How convenient. The announcement that the Lady will be returned to her Park per the Implementation Plan could, of course, easily be made prior to finishing any needed repairs. Click on this image for a calendar calling for the Lady’s Return:
The City’s only proffered explanation for abandoning a fully-vetted Plan came from Original designer and author of the Plan, Mary Moore Wallinger: She glibly declared at a City Council meeting that “Plans change,” noting that the replica statue does not fit in with her contemporary vision for the Plaza. Wallinger either has changed her mind since 2012 or, to prevent a controversy, she concealed her intentions when she wrote The Implementation Plan, which called for the only natural and popular thing, protecting Lady Liberty during construction and returning Her after construction. The subjective preference of one person, who just happens to also be the Chair of the City Planning Commission, is undermining the integrity of the planning process and ignoring public sentiment. The full story, with links and images, is below.
- To further insult Lady Liberty, the City is now saying it has already changed the name of her Home, with no notice to the public or specific Council resolution, from Liberty Park to (the bland and inaccurate label) Gateway Plaza. See our post “the name is Liberty Park“. Mary Wallinger told the Public Workshop held during the planning process for Gateway Plaza that the name Gateway was merely administrative for use in seeking State grant, and that the name Liberty Park would remain unless the City Council changes it.
- update (Feb. 21, 2019): See our coverage of the News10 ABC Special Report, “Local Treasure Locked Away” (aired February 14, 2019). Thank you, to Louis Finley and the ABC News10 crew.
(May 20, 2019): We are still waiting for a decision from City Hall about Lady Liberty. Although insisting that it is up to Mayor McCarthy, Mary Wallinger is still trying to justify her position keeping Lady Liberty away from Gateway/Liberty Plaza, which comes down to her personal opinion that the statue just “didn’t seem to fit anymore”. See “Wallinger’s excuses for exiling Lady Liberty” for a discussion of her excuses and the failure to justify abandoning a fully-approved, popular Plan, that she wrote and administered. [The Gazette reports on the controversy in the article “Mayor teases Lady Liberty announcement“, May 27, 2019, by Pete DeMola].
(July 12, 2019): See today’s Gazette article “Schenectady’s Lady Liberty saga drags on, some say unnecessarily: Deadline comes and goes for relocation plans” (July 12, 2019, A1, by Pete DeMola).
. . Sadly Inevitable Follow-up (August 28, 2019): We had hoped that Mayor Gary McCarthy would be wise enough to swallow his pride and do the right thing with Lady Liberty. Sadly, no. Nor was Mary Wallinger, who somehow convinced him to exile the Lady from Her Park. Today, the replica statue was installed at the SE corner of Erie Boulevard and Union Street, one of the zaniest intersections in the City, and a most unlikely place for the Lady to expect visitors. I’ll have more to say soon, and will link to the new material. Check out Pete DeMola’s Gazette article this afternoon, here ; and a TU article by Paul Nelson. For now, here is a collage with photos taken of Lady Liberty her first lunchtime at Her new location:
Along the same lines, what happened to the Welcome to Schenectady metal silhouette sign? While it was an odd ‘welcome’ sign, I did consider it a work of art. I truly hope it is preserved and placed somewhere for public view. Nice write-up and background on the sign can be found at this web address. Page down to find it. http://www.hoxsie.org/cgi-bin/mt/mt-search.cgi?IncludeBlogs=11&tag=schenectady&limit=20
Good question, Kathy. A lot of us have had had the same question. About a month ago, Ray Gillen (Metroplex Chair) responded to Mary Ann Ruscitto of East Front Street, and said the sign would be coming back — apparently, katycorner to Gateway Plaza, on the northeast corner of South Church Street. He said it would be more visible and at a spot that would be better cared for if that old sign were there. On the other hand, I’ve seen a photo of it laying on the ground behind a City storage facility. Since Mary Moore Wallinger is administering the construction of the Plaza, you might ask her for more detail.
By the way, Gillen’s reply to Mary Ann back on Feb. 26, said with no qualifying words, that Lady Liberty will be going to another park in the Spring, not Gateway Plaza. It is thought around these parts, of course, that Ray Gillen is The Power that Be in Schenectady County, due to his ability to grant or withhold funding on projects. Mayor McCarthy says he’s made no final decision, but I doubt it.
Thank you for your Comment, Jessie. These days, I am wondering why only Vince Riggi on City Council has taken a stance on returning Lady Liberty. Doesn’t anyone else have a backbone and care about the integrity of the Council resolution process and the planning process? Ed K., John P., and Karen Z-W even signed the Goose Hill Petition (to themselves!) supporting the move of Lady Liberty to Steinmetz Park, despite the false claims in the Petition.
Wow…let’s see it put back! My ltr. to the Editor of the Daily Gazette last week (5/29) gives support as do other timely letters just within last week, and again, this past Saturday, 6/1…good luck! To Liberty!