Silhouette Lady visited Lady Liberty on the first Anniversary of its Exile by Mayor McCarthy to Erie Boulevard and Union Street. Silhouette Lady symbolizes the absence of Lady Liberty from Liberty Park, and demands the return to that Park, as promised in the Final Gateway Plaza Implementation Plan. [See the Map at bottom of this posting for the two locations (Exile & Home).]
HONEST GOVERNMENT and HONORING OUR HISTORY REQUIRE the RETURN of LADY LIBERTY to LIBERTY-GATEWAY PARK
On Friday, August 28, 2019, only a few passersby noticed that Schenectady’s Lady Liberty Replica was perched on a small pedestal at the southeast corner of Erie Boulevard and Union Street. It is a homely spot, with several poles and utility boxes blocking the view of the statue, no foot traffic, and a daunting intersection for pedestrians to cross. Over this past year, there has been no placement of a plaque or educational signage, no significant site improvement, and no lighting installed for safety or illumination at the statue. It has frequently been the site of debris and litter, pranks and other annoyances, with a backdrop of tagging and graffiti. As expected, there have been virtually no visitors. [Photos to right and immediately below taken near sunset on August 24, 2020; see below for photo of our preferred spot taken that same evening.]
We must demand better treatment of Lady Liberty’s statue and better governmental processes at City Hall. The location issue can be remedied by the Mayor with no interruption of the important work being done on Black Lives Matter, the Pandemic, and related fiscal issues. However, after all the machinations of Gary McCarthy and Mary Wallinger, the Honesty and Trust issue will take significantly more time to fix.
Why bother protesting? The location in Exile:
- Disrespects a national symbol and beloved local icon, as well as the Boy Scouts who donated the statue in 1950, and who for many decades joined annually with veterans and the public at Liberty Park, re-dedicating themselves to the spirit of Lady Liberty. [At right, photo of the absent, original plaque that went into storage in August 2017.]
- Demonstrates (continually) the refusal of Mayor Gary McCarthy to follow the 2013 Final Gateway Plaza Implementation Plan, adopted after full public participation, and approved by City Council and the Mayor himself. The Plan, as shown on its cover and repeated within, called for removing the Statue during construction for its protection, and then implementation of the only conceivable result after reconstruction: Return of the Statue to Liberty-Gateway Park, to truly complete the project.
- Destroys and undermines notions of transparency and integrity in our governmental process — with a vital element of an approved Plan abandoned without notice and without giving any substantive reasons, despite public opinion, and with the new location selected in secret with no public participation nor consultation with City Council. After drafting and promoting the Gateway Plaza Implementation Plan, Mary Wallinger (now chair of the Schenectady Planning Commission) changed her position and convinced Mayor McCarthy not to return the replica statue to its home. [For a description and refutation of Wallinger’s “reasons” for exiling Lady Liberty, see our posting on “Wallinger’s excuses“.]
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Out of respect for good government, public opinion, and Lady Liberty, Schenectady must do better than this:
A better, and in fact most appropriate, spot is available in Liberty Park at Gateway Plaza: The vacant Central Sculpture base situated in virtually the same location where Lady Liberty stood for 67 years.
. . . . unlike the Mayor’s chosen Exile Location, the sculpture base is already well-lit each evening.
- Bringing Lady Liberty home, after finally cleaning the statue and making any needed minor repairs, can be done at very little additional cost, especially since there was a $20,000 line item for returning the Replica Statue — relocating it in the new Plaza — in the Final Implementation Plan. Furthermore, Mayor McCarthy has not even responded to a resident who offered (twice) to organize the Return at no cost to the City.
For a full discussion of the issues and history of the dispute over the location of our Lady Liberty Replica, including quotations, links, images, the frustrating FOIL response (purportedly, the decision to ignore the Implementation Plan was never discussed in writing at City Hall), and more, see “Lady Liberty is Timeless (March 26, 2018) and “McCarthy disses Lady Liberty (and all of us) again” (August 28, 2019).
Our prior photo-advocacy helps tell the story through words and images (click on a thumbnail for larger versions):
- MAP. This Google May shows the “exile location” of Lady Liberty’s replica and the four-block walk (0.4 miles) to Liberty-Gateway Park.
BTW: DEDICATION DAY: A DIFFERENT MAYOR SAW THE STATUE DIFFERENTLY:
- The procrastination and stubbornness of our current Mayor and his carefree attitude toward Lady Liberty, her proponents, and the Planning and legislative process, is in stark contrast to the importance of the Statue to the City at the time of its Dedication. The front page of the Schenectady Gazette on November 9, 1950 gave great prominence to the story, with an article and photo above the fold. The article states that 2500 scouts and scouters marched in a parade to the Park, with a crowd of 3,500 persons overflowing the small park for the dedication ceremony. Then Mayor Owen M. Begley called it a “beautiful, beautiful gift,” commenting that the replica here will be a great emblem in Schenectady of our great heritage of liberty.
follow-up (excerpted from our posting on the anniversary of the Lady’s 2nd year in exile):
- Step-Child Treatment: The posting “Our stepchild Lady Liberty” shows how poorly Lady Liberty is being treated compared to nearby, far less significant locations in downtown Schenectady. And, “Will civic pride save Schenectady’s Lady Liberty” detailing how much better the 100+ Boy Scout Liberty replicas existing around the nation are being treated, especially the others located in Upstate New York.
Also, see, “Letters for the Lady” for the many letters to the editor and opinion pieces arguing for the return of Lady Liberty to Liberty Park. (Both James Wilson [to the Left] and Lance Jackson have written several times to the Gazette on behalf of Lady Liberty, as has the Gazette editorial board.) And, see “Lady Liberty is Timeless” to understand how Mayor McCarthy and Mary Wallinger created this avoidable crisis in civic and aesthetic crisis in Schenectady.