Our “Smart City” Mayor, Gary R. McCarthy, has made another very unwise decision. Six years after the City Council and Mayor approved the official Implementation Plan to return Lady Liberty to Her Original Home; two years after our Lady Liberty replica statue was removed for safe-keeping during the reconstruction of Her Liberty Park; and 17 months after the Mayor was first publicly asked to explain the failure to return the Statue, Mayor McCarthy announced today that the Lady had been placed at her new permanent location: the southeast corner of Erie Boulevard and Union Street, with a railroad overpass and retaining wall as Her backdrop. See Pete DeMola’s Gazette article this afternoon, here [screenshot image]; and a TU article [screenshot image] by Paul Nelson (both online August 28, 2019).
The Mayor’s statement today again gave no reason for not following the approved Implementation Plan for Gateway Plaza, and failed to identify his so-called “design team”, which understandably wants to remain anonymous. As reported in the Times Union:
“Upon completion of the newly redesigned Gateway Plaza and after careful consideration and discussion with our design team, it became clear that we would need to seek a new location for the statue,” Mayor Gary McCarthy said in a statement Wednesday. “This is an extremely high-visibility intersection with approximately 30,000 daily travelers on Erie Boulevard.”
- Note: Only one person, Mary Moore Wallinger (image at right), has tried to explain the exile of Lady Liberty from Her Park. See our posting “Wallinger’s Excuses“, which discusses the reasons given by Ms. Wallinger since March 2018 for her conclusion that Lady Liberty “no longer fits” with the Plaza. Mary Wallinger was the original designer of Gateway Plaza, and is also the Chair of the Schenectady Planning Commission. Mayor McCarthy has bent over backwards to make her wish come true of keeping Lady Liberty away from Liberty-Gateway Plaza. Since her role has become public, Ms Wallinger has been quick to point out that it is “the Mayor’s decision”, not hers, whether to return the Statue to its home.
- (August 29, 2019) My Freedom of Information Request to the City, dated June 11, 2019, asked for documents relating to the decision to return Lady Liberty or place Her elsewhere. This morning, I finally received a pdf file of heavily-redacted email from Corporation Counsel’s FOIL office, with the explanation that:Records have been redacted pursuant to FOIL Public Officers Law Article 6 §87(2)(g)(iii) “Agency records”. States, an agency may deny access to records or portions thereof that are inter-agency or intra-agency materials which are not final agency policy or determinations. If you would like to appeal your request, you may do so in writing Mayor Gary McCarthy, City Hall 105 Jay Street, Schenectady, NY 12305. Your written appeal will need to be within 30 days.Of course, nothing requires the redacting of this information. The Mayor has never told us why Lady Liberty needs to be exiled from Liberty Park, and his FOIL office (Corporation Counsel) has decided to hide whatever those reasons and reasoning might be. Somehow, an appeal to the Mayor sounds futile..* At the foot of this posting, I have a few comments and screenshots from the pdf FOIL packet. You will note that none of the “careful consideration and discussion with our design team” mentioned by the Mayor made it into any document (e.g., email, memorandum, phone call memo, etc.)..
Indeed, this is such a “high visibility” intersection, that several people have already told me they passed right by without seeing Lady Liberty today. I was one of those who did not notice The Lady, as I drove west on Union late this morning heading to the Stockade. Drivers coming west on Union and going straight or turning right will almost certainly fail to see the Statue without an effort to do so. That fat pole itself blocks the view, but so will vehicles turning left and waiting with you for the light to change.
The idea of the beloved green Statue distracting the already driven-to-distraction motorists and pedestrians at that intersection is downright scary. Whether taking the time to look for Lady Liberty, or being surprised by Her in the middle of a turn, or texting a friend that you just saw the Statue, the City’s creation of such a remarkable distraction is exactly what we do not need at Erie Blvd. and Union Street.
It is most certainly not a pedestrian-friendly intersection, as drivers are immediately allowed to start turning when pedestrians get the Walk signal at that long crosswalk. Just yesterday (Aug. 27), two left-turning vehicles came speeding in front of me, as I tried to cross with the Walk Signal in that very crosswalk. I jumped back and signaled the third driver, in a large black SUV, to stop. She did, but angrily (and ignorantly), yelled at me: “I have a green light!” I hope Lady Liberty is not too squeamish as she gazes out the intersection.
. . quite a view for, and of, Lady Liberty . .
. . by the way: the straw is very slippery; better stay off it. .
I’ve been trying to keep this posting relatively light, to stifle my great disappointment over the crassness, arrogance, and pettiness of the process that ignored the approved Plan and the public’s preferences, only to result in this disagreeable location for our Statue of the Lady who brings Enlightenment.
Her Real Home. In case you need a reminder, this is where Lady Liberty reigned and inspired for 67 years, before she was moved “for her protection” during reconstruction of Liberty Park; photos taken September 2016:
Beyond the Mayor, the irresponsible and/or cowardly posture of City Council members other than Vince Riggi on this issue makes very little sense politically, but should be a big concern in a City that is about to “celebrate” four more years of Mayor Gary McCarthy. I hope the electorate will have some serious questions for those seeking reelection this year (Kosiur, Polemeni, Perazzo), about their independence from the Mayor, and their commitment to transparency and integrity.
THE SORRY TALE of the EXILED LADY. If you look down the Right Margin on our Homepage, you will see many postings concerned with Lady Liberty, Liberty Park and Gateway Plaza, that are part of this too-long story. A good place to find important images and documents and coverage of the tale, including links to additional webposts, is the posting “Lady Liberty is Timeless.” To the immediate right is a thumbnail of an Advocacy Poster I presented in March of 2018 that helps explain why we felt betrayed.
- In the posting “Letters for the Lady“, we’ve compiled Letters and commentary in the press supporting return of Lady Liberty to Her Liberty Park home since March 2018. A new section has been added at the foot of that posting that will present similar pieces since the revelation of the New Location.
. . Above and Below: a very wide intersection for a small statue and Big Symbol . .
BTW: Here’s my view of Lady Liberty from the front of the line, waiting in my car for the light to change, heading west on Union Street; I had to roll up a foot or two to see Her at all (taken Saturday, Aug. 31, 2019):
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*Click here for the FOIL packet re the Location of Lady Liberty. Here’s what I learned from the FOIL Packet:
- Somehow, the decision not to return Lady Liberty to Liberty-Gateway Plaza despite the approved Implementation Plan happened with no document of any sort created – unless the entire decision process was memorialized in Page 1 of the FOIL response document, which is totally redacted, as shown on the right, with no date, subject, sender or recipient revealed.
- No document has a date prior to March 2018, although the Mayor’s Office and Ray Gillen at Metroplex had already been saying for months that the Statue would go to another park or location. For example, no document discusses a “design team” conclusion that Lady Liberty was not a good fit for the new Plaza, much less a response from the Mayor on that topic. Nor, was the notion of sending Lady Liberty to Goose Hill’s Steinmetz Park ever documented.
- All the substantive discussion between the Mayor’s Office and Mary Wallinger, the City Engineer, etc., has been redacted. The only textual information is in my own emails on this topic that were worriedly passed around by Mary Wallinger and others.
- It is clear that Mary Wallinger discussed with the Mayor’s Office showing up to say something helpful at the City Council meeting on March 26, 2018, where Goose Hill’s Lady Liberty Petition to move the Lady to Steinmetz Park was presented. [more on that Council meeting and the misleading but never corrected Petition here.]
- There is nothing in the much-redacted FOIL packet relating to the decision to choose the new Erie-Union location. However, it is disconcerting to see that the City Engineer had made a request for bids, with a submission deadline of October 1, 2018, for removing a “tower” at Erie Blvd. and Union Street as part of relocating Lady Liberty to that location.
- In addition to the City Engineer Wallin knowing about the relocation to Erie-Union, Development Director Kristin Diotte, Operations Director LaFond, Finance Director Anthony Ferrari, along with Corporation Counsel Falotico, Mary Wallinger, and others were in the loop. See p. 12 of the FOIL return (thumbnail to the right). Kristin Diotte mentions the bids and deadline in an email dated Sept. 26, 2018, that had the Subject “Rally for Lady Liberty on Sept. 28”, referring to the Rally I had called to coincide with the launching of Gateway Plaza by DSIC (and calling it an “Unfortunate situation”).
On October 5, 2018, Mayor McCarthy wrote Chris Wallin, “Award the bid and get the tower down.” The lowest bid was $10,500. To the left are two Google Street View images from 2015, showing the tower in question. [Hat Tip to Tom Hodgkins for telling me there was a tower there and suggesting I check out a Street View.].The entire upper echelon of City Hall apparently knew about the relocation to Erie Blvd. and Union Street almost 11 months before the Statue was placed at the new spot. And, NOBODY (not even our Planning Elite and our engineers) told the boss it was not a very good idea, for reasons of safety and aesthetics, politics, and more. Nonetheless, Mayor McCarthy kept making believe the decision was not made, and Lady Liberty might even be returned to Liberty Park.
- follow-up (Sept. 10, 2019): Meanwhile, City Council President Ed Kosiur told me after the Council meeting on September 9, 2019, that he only learned about the new location when I posted about it at my website. Back at home that evening, in response to Ed’s request, I looked through the Implementation Plan to find proof that the return of Lady Liberty was indeed included explicitly in the Plan (and not just shown in a rendition), and sent Ed several screen shots from the Plan. I also noted that “relocating” the replica statue within the completed Plaza had a $20,000 line item in the expense table that was presented in the Implementation Plan. Click on thumbnail to the right. As you can see in the following Master Design sketch from the Plan, “Relocated Statue of Liberty Replica” is shown near State Street and the BusPlus structure as item #6 of the Legend.
- Below are screenshots of  A redacted email by Mary Wallinger dated March 7, 2018, to Corporation Counsel Carl Falotico forwarding my email to the Stockade Yahoo email list, dated March 6, 2018 , which included a Plea for Lady Liberty. And,  A Wallinger email and invoice to City Engineer Wallin, dated October 4, 2018, for expenses related to construction details for Lady Liberty. Although the project listed is Liberty Plaza, at the time they were apparently thinking of putting the Statue at “Police Plaza”.
. . . . . .
My summary reaction to the FOIL Return: [Expletive-less Version] Sigh. What ever happened to integrity and transparency and trust in our Government? Does Mary Moore Wallinger not care about her reputation for honesty? What does she have over the Mayor that causes him to squander his already-limited credibility in order to accomplish her wish to exile Lady Liberty from Liberty Park?