Gateway Plaza gets the wrong sculpture

GPsculpture30Jul22f

. . LADY  LIBERTY WAS EVICTED-EXILED FOR THIS?!

UPDATE (Aug. 1, 2022): Jim Salengo of DSIC wrote me this morning that: “This is a piece by David Siders (formerly of Experience & Creative Design). He is heading up our landscaping program this summer and has been doing a lot of work in Gateway Plaza. His team recently cleaned up and weeded the bench circle at the northwest corner of the park, so he just placed this piece there temporarily to give a little bit of visual interest. He previously had it in front of our outdoor program shop on Front Street, but it kind of got lost there.”

I’m glad to hear the sculpture is only temporary. I told Jim my relief, and stated the sculpture could not hold a candle [or torch] to the impact and symbolism of Lady Liberty at that location. [See original posting below for explanation.] Maybe the Siders piece can go to the site being planned at the location of the old Nicholaus Building, as part of a revolving series of sculpture, after a refurbished Lady Liberty Replica returns home to Liberty Park at Gateway Plaza.

Four years after Gateway Plaza (a/k/a Liberty Park) was opened to the public, it finally has a sculpture at its Central Sculpture Base. (image above, and those below, taken July 30, 2022) The new sculpture, whose name and creator I do not yet know, is almost exactly where Schenectady’s Lady Liberty Statue stood from 1950 to 2017, until her purportedly “temporary” removal for safekeeping while Liberty Park was redesigned as part of a new Gateway Plaza.

Here’s the new sculpture seen from various perspectives. (Click on a tile for a larger version.)

  • I’ve been wondering over the past few years what happened to the $20,000 allocated for the Planter Sculpture in the Gateway Plaza Plan’s budget. I hope this little item does not represent that $20K.

LLSilhouetteTimelessThe sculpture base is the spot where many Schenectadians hoped The Lady would be returned from her exile by Mayor Gary McCarthy and Mary Moore Wallinger. [See our posting “Lady Liberty is Timeless” which 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, rather than returning the statute to Liberty Park, as stated in the fully-vetted and approved 2013 Gateway Plaza Implementation Plan.]

  • PutHerBack4x6eThe image to the right is a plea we made to McCarthy and Wallinger a few years ago, urging them to Bring Back the Lady and cure the missing spirit of Liberty Park. The central sculpture base was and is the preferred re-location spot, where it is visible to traffic and has ample space and seating for Plaza visitors. Ms. Wallinger had already installed the Rainbow Pride exhibit at the place the Implementation Plan had shown for the return.

I am, of course a bit biased on this topic, but it is clear to me that the choice of this insignificant sculpture further disrespects Lady Liberty, its history, and the wishes of the public, along with basic principles of good government, planning and transparency.  Wallinger told us while presenting the Implementation Plan in 2013 that the sculpture chosen for the Plaza would tell a story about Schenectady’s past, present and future. I’m waiting to hear just what “story” or message this new sculpture is meant to convey at the “gateway” to Schenectady. And, just how it will gain the affection and ability to inspire that Lady Liberty already possesses.

From every angle, I believe Lady Liberty makes a more compelling image and symbol of both our past and future, especially with the Rainbow Pride arches, a product of the liberty and Enlightenment values represented by the Statue, just a few yards away.

GPsculptureLogoHere are a few images of Lady Liberty in Her park in September 2016, before park reconstruction caused Her removal. The Replica of Liberty has grace and gravitas the new sculpture (see its logo-signature to the right) is unlikely to ever achieve.

LadyInParkF8x10f . . LadyLibertyParkCollageF

As we’ve argued before, Lady Liberty’s replica best fulfills the stated intention of the Gateway Plaza Implementation Plan to celebrate the past, present and future of Schenectady.

Mayor McCarthy made us wait a couple years, marked first with silence and then silly excuses, before he revealed the current scandalous choice of Erie Blvd. and Union Street for the Exile Location of Lady Liberty, in August 2019. Three years later, the location continues to have no signage denoting the meaning and local history of the Replica, and no plaque telling of its donation by our local Boy Scouts of America and their hopes, as well as no landscaping or floral decorations, as it stands among utility and light poles, without lighting, only a few feet from Smart City surveillance devices.

My guess is that there are few Schenectady residents or visitors who will feel that the long wait for the new sculpture at Gateway Plaza was worth it.

. . share this post with this shorter URL: https://tinyurl.com/wrongsculpture . .

REMINDER: On November 8, 2021, the Schenectady City Council passed a resolution recommending that our Lady Liberty replica be returned to Liberty Park. Rather than taking this graceful way out and returning the statue to Her home, the Mayor has stubbornly stayed silent and overseen installation of the new sculpture.

Respecting Lady Liberty (with updates)

    • FOLLOW-UP (August 28, 2022): Three years ago today, Mayor Gary McCarthy announced that Lady Liberty had been relocated to the SE corner of Union St. and Erie Boulevard, where the Statue still stands, with no marker or signage identifying it or its source. And, ten months ago, on November 8, 2021, the Schenectady Council passed a resolution recommending that our Lady Liberty replica be returned to Liberty Park. If you had hoped the Mayor would take advantage of that opportunity to do the right thing, after cleaning and refurbishing the statue, you’ve joined the masses of Schenectady residents frustrated with Gary McCarthy. What next? How would you finish Lady Liberty’s phone call to our Mayor?
      • As the designated maker of legislation and policy in Schenectady, the Council should have explicitly directed the return of Lady Libery to Liberty Plaza, with a deadline.
    • LL-jumpforjoyUpdate (November 5, 2021): This is the Best Lady Liberty News In Years [if accepted by the Mayor].  The Resolution mentioned in the next paragraph, recommending that the Mayor return our Lady Liberty Replica to Liberty-Gateway Plaza has been placed on the Agenda of the Nov. 8, 2021 City Council Meeting. update (Nov. 8. 2021) Today’s Gazette article underscores the obvious: This controversy is not over until Mayor McCarthy decides Gateway-Liberty Park is the appropriate place for Lady Liberty. The Council has given him a graceful solution, let’s hope he takes the opportunity.
      • (November 1, 2021): This evening, all five sitting members of the Schenectady City Council stated support for the return of Lady Liberty to Her Home at Liberty/Gateway Plaza. Their vote at a Council Committees Meeting calls for the drafting of a Resolution supporting the return. If drafted, the item should be on the Council Meeting next week, November 8, 2021. Mayor McCarthy left the room before the item was reached on the Agenda. His cooperation would be much appreciated.

. . Help end this disgrace. Demand respect for Lady Liberty

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. . BRING LADY LIBERTY HOME FROM EXILE


  • Update (Oct. 30, 2021): THANK YOU to all who attended the demonstration, and attracted so many horn beeps. [photo by Peter R. Barber, for Daily Gazette, A9, Oct. 29, 2021). Our efforts surely helped to get the Statue of Liberty placed on the City Council Committees Agenda for Monday, Nov, 2, 2021; Item #9. You can observe the meeting, at 5:30 PM, City Hall Room 110. Please contact City Council Members to ask that they act to put Lady Liberty back at Her Home, Liberty Park. Contact you favorite Council members, and/or reach the whole Council by emailing City Clerk Samanta Mykoo, at SMykoo@schenectadyny.gov.
  • RALLY on October 28, 2021, at 4 PM, at the statue’s Location in Exile (Union St. at Erie Blvd.). The Demonstration starts at 3 PM, and through the rush hour, allies of Liberty will be demonstrating at that corner, with signs and sighs.
  • Click the thumbnail on the right for the Rally Flyer and please share it.
  • CONTACT Mayor McCarthy and City Council Members to demand that Lady Liberty, our History, and Honest Government be respected.
  • Share this posting with this short URL: tinyurl.com/RespectLL

LadyLibertyParkCollageF. .  Left: scenes of Lady Liberty in Liberty Park (Sept. 2016) .. .

For 67 years, our Schenectady community honored and respected the Lady Liberty replica that graced the Park named for the statue, Liberty Park. In August 2017, the Statue was removed from Liberty Park for its protection while the Park was being expanded into a new Gateway Plaza. We all thought the Lady would be kept safe and returned to Her Home (fully refurbished) when Plaza construction was complete. That is what the public wanted and the Mayor and City Council promised when they approved the Comprehensive Plan for Gateway Plaza in April 2013.

RespectSignE
Instead, backroom decisions were made, by Mayor Gary R. McCarthy, with no input from the Council or public, to exile Lady Liberty from Her Park. When the public clamored for the return of Lady Liberty from storage in a City warehouse, City Council did nothing and the Mayor stalled for more than a year, before dumping the Replica unrepaired at a most inappropriate location: The northeast corner of Union Street and Erie Boulevard, amidst eyesores, and with no signage, landscaping, foot-traffic, or lighting.

LLexile-garagesale . . WE MUST FINALLY END THIS SHAMEFUL DISRESPECT FOR LADY LIBERTY, PUBLIC OPINION, and OUR PLANNING PROCESS .

This goal should be easy to accomplish. The best location for Lady Liberty is available right now, almost exactly where She stood for 67 years, at the new and unfilled central sculpture base at Liberty/Gateway Plaza (image to right). It has visibility, seating, space for visitors, lighting, and more. The choice fulfills the promise made by City Council and the Mayor in 2013. And, it overlooks a modern symbol of the civil liberties Lady Liberty has inspired, the Rainbow Pride monumnent. Images below are from January 2021:

respectBetterSpot4LL . . respectLL-BetterSpot1

This website has a lot of information about this very avoidable controversy (see the Gateway-Liberty Park category), but the important issues can be grasped by checking out the links provided below this paragraph . This photo-editorial was presented to Council and Mayor in March 2018 (click on it for a larger version):

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BTW: Mary Wallinger, the chief designer of Gateway Plaza and drafter of the Plan, changed her public position about returning Lady Liberty to Liberty Park, and placed the Rainbow Pride public art project at the location designated in the Plaza Plan for the Liberty replica. Happily, as stated above, there is an even better location still available close to the original installation. It more closely reflects public comment during the Plaza planning process.

HELPFUL LINKS: Here are links to various topics of interest. Each posting contains more links to relevant material.

  • A full history of this controversy/travesty, with photos, documents, important links: tinyurl.com/TimelessLiberty
  • the Stepchild treatment of Lady Liberty for two years now at the Location in Exile: tinyurl.com/StepchildLiberty
  • CIVIC PRIDE should compel City Hall to give Lady Liberty the respect due Her as a symbol of liberty, welcome and opportunity, and an important part of Schenectady’s history. See the posting “Will Civic Pride save Schenectady’s Liberty Replica” for several important points, including how much better the other New York State BSA replicas are being treated — with, for example, Utica and and tiny Leroy totally refurbishing their Replicas the same year Schenectady’s Mayor put ours in storage with no intention to treat Her with respect. [click on image at the right to see the Upstate Sisters of our Lady Liberty.}

See “Letters for the Lady” for a compilation of letters to the editor and editorial pieces about the City’s treatment of Lady Liberty.

Come back for updates related to the Rally and our Lady Liberty Respect campaign.

LL-Gaz-JaniceLance24Oct2021(October 24, 2021): The Sunday Gazette has an article about our campaign to return Lady Liberty to Her Home. See “Schenectady group wants Lady Liberty off Erie. Blvd., back to former park location” (Brian Lee, A1; photo at right).

(October 25, 2021): Our thanks go to NewsChannel10 reporter Collan Smith (on left) for highlighting our campaign in their Sunday night news program. See “Schenectady group wants lady liberty statue moved ‘out of exile‘ (October 24, 2021).

(October 26, 2021): Today’s Gazette mentions our Bring Her Home campaign at the end of an article that focused on City Council passing the Annual Budget at its meeting last night.

In another matter, a procession of residents asked McCarthy to return a replica of the Statue of Liberty to its former long-time location in Liberty Park, now known as Gateway Plaza.
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The statue, which arrived in Schenectady in 1950 by way of a Boy Scouts fundraising effort, was moved to the corner of Erie Boulevard and Union Street in 2019 after a redesign of the park began in 2017.
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Chris Morris, director of the advocacy group Schenectady Landlords Influencing Change, likened Lady Liberty to a “special tenant” and McCarthy to  “landlord” who had uprooted her to just below train tracks on “one of the busiest and inappropriate street corners” in the city.
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“What an absolute disservice and disrespect to such a well-loved member of our community seeking peace and tranquility,” Morris said.
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Unfortunately, the report ended with this sentence:

McCarthy has said that the statue had been neglected and was often urinated on at its former location.

By repeating the Urination Excuse (twice in three days), the Gazette enables the Mayor’s habit of giving nonsense replies to questions about his actions. One reason Liberty Park was reconstructed was because its overgrowth of vegetation allowed homeless people to spend time there sleeping and drinking and doing drugs. Opening up the Park makes it much harder for such activity to continue. The Mayor did not violate the Comprehensive Plan he signed in 2013 because of prior urination. And, he certainly did not choose the disrespectful Location in Exile because of prior urination.
David Giacalone’s presentation from the floor at the Oct. 25 Council Meeting was titled “Civic Pride and Lady Liberty” (click for the pdf file).

GALLERY for THE LADY: This space will present a growing collection of images of Lady Liberty advocates from our Schenectady Community:

 . .

. . above: Vince Riggi [L} and James Wilson [R] . .

 . .   

. . above: [L] Delanne Stageman; [R] Keith Dayer on left and Susannah Hand

. .  also at the Sunday Green Market on Jay Street:

 . .  

PLEASE, BRING LADY LIBERTY HOME, to wit, HERE:

our stepchild Statue of Liberty

   Why did Gateway Plaza project administrator, and Planning Commission Chair, Mary Moore Wallinger [image from Gazette at left] decide to treat our Lady Liberty replica like the proverbial redheaded stepchild — disrespected and neglected? And, why did Schenectady Mayor Gary McCarthy decide to be Wallinger’s stubborn enabler, authorizing the continued shabby treatment of the Statue in exile at Erie Blvd. and Union Street? We’ve been asking such questions since March of 2018 (see, e.g., “Bring Lady Liberty Home“), when it became clear that Wallinger and McCarthy did not plan to fulfill the promise made in the approved Final Gateway Plaza Implementation Plan, that Lady Liberty would be returned to her home of 67 years at Liberty-Gateway Park after its construction was completed.

  • BTW: Ms. Wallinger authored the Implementation Plan and presented it in 2013 in a Resolution unanimously approved by the City Council, noting that the full planning process had included three public sessions. No notice was given to the Council nor the public when the secret decision was made by Wallinger, McCarthy (and, apparently, Metroplex Chair Ray Gillen) to send the Statue elsewhere.

. .Lady Liberty replica still seen in exile (Jan. 19, 2021), alongside a huge, unsightly utility pole, etc., and with scarred and marred retaining wall in the background.

. . despite a far better spot available at the Gateway Plaza central sculpture base . .

Admirably-persistent letter writer Lance R. Jackson, of Glenville, appeared again yesterday in the Gazette in a Letter to the Editor headlined “Restore statue to rightful location in Gateway Park” (June 11, 2021). Octogenarian Jackson wrote:

The mayor and City Council owe us a clear and concise explanation as to why they are not restoring our Lady to Gateway Park or telling us that they are honoring our request and providing a reasonable restoration timeline.

It seems pretty clear that we are not going to get the requested explanation from Lady Liberty’s City Hall “step-parents”, nor the related question of how much discretion the Mayor or project administrator has to change a fully-planned and approved project when there is no safety or financial emergency that might justify a change in a significant feature of the plan.

A Stepchild Statue?  In August 2019, our Liberty replica was deposited in a most unsuitable location, without being cleaned or repaired while held by the City for safekeeping for two years, and was returned without its original plaque or other marker designating its meaning and its donation by local Boy Scouts in 1950.  The superior treatment given by over one hundred municipalities to the remaining Boy Scouts of America replicas of Lady Liberty is depicted in my posting “Will civic pride save Schenectady’s Liberty replica?” (Feb. 11, 2020). How bad is this location? Here’s what the Gazette Editorial Board said two days after the installation at Union and Erie (“Lady Liberty’s new home: Try again:“):

Mayor Gary McCarthy — without input from the public or the collective City Council — appears to have unilaterally decided to dump it on one of the city’s most cluttered street corners — uncleaned and unimproved — where it’s difficult to see clearly from either side of the five-lane road, against a thick, ugly metal power pole and utility boxes, and in the shadow of an unsightly train bridge at the end of a parking lot.

Here are three additional indications of the continued shabby, “unwanted-stepchild” treatment of Lady Liberty at Her location in exile [click on a photo for a larger image]:

. .

First, The Tardy Repair. A snowplow damaged the mason block retainer wall at the base of Lady Liberty on December 23 or 24, 2020. (images above) To the left is a December 30 photo of the initial “fix” by City workers: An unsafe and unsightly piling of the loose masonry alongside the sidewalk of what Mayor McCarthy called “an extremely high-visibility intersection”. It then took the City another eighteen weeks to finish what was in reality a very minor masonry project. See images immediately below. (In the meantime, the safety cones were frequently scattered and the author of this posting occasionally brought them back to the spot to give the public at least a little warning of the hazard.)

. .

  • NOTE: The tardy “quickie” repair apparently only happened when it did because a City crew was just across Union Street, tidying up after a period-style light pole was taken down by a vehicle out of control. Given the speed and recklessness of many drivers at this intersection, the wipe out could have just as easily happened to Lady Liberty, who is situated merely a few yards from the roadway.

 

Second, the Big Ugly Utility Pole. Lady Liberty does not deserve to stand cheek-to-jowl next to a  “thick, ugly metal power pole” (complete with a “smart” surveillance camera) — especially, when the pole makes the statue virtually invisible to vehicles coming weston Union Street. That opinion was strengthened significantly eleven months ago, when I noticed that similar ugly power poles at State St. and Erie, just two blocks away, had been replaced with far more stately black, decorative poles:

Moreover, in case you think State and Erie got special treatment as Downtown’s prime intersection, take a look at what is standing at Liberty Street and Erie Boulevard, one short block from, and within sight of, Lady Liberty:

 . . SE corner . .

And, royally adorning Burger King on the NW corner of Liberty and State Streets:

 . .

  • You might have noticed the pretty flowers at the base of the Burger King lamppost. That notion brings me to my third stepchild issue.

Third, Weeds not Flowers. While crossing Erie Boulevard this week, going from Lady Liberty to the SE corner, with a parking lot and Stockade Welcome Column, I brightened up to see a lovely flower bed:

. . even nicer two days later . . 

flowerbed-UnioniAtErie12Jun2021

The sight of the lovely flower bed, made me turn around to see if I had missed a similar display at Lady Liberty. From across the street, I could not see any blooms. So, I crossed back to check out the flora around the Statue. This is what I found:

 . .

Yep, weeds on the Erie Blvd. side (R) and weeds on the Union Street side of the Lady. 

On this lovely June Saturday afternoon, I’m going to close this posting, feeling confident that my “step-child statue” argument will make at least a few people at City Hall embarrassed, maybe even enough to finally do something about the integrity of our planning process, and the importance of public sentiment, in the cause of the enlightened spirit of Lady Liberty. Her Schenectady replica belongs in the corner where it stood for 67 years, where it would now overlook the Pride Memorial, another symbol of equality and welcome for all. 

update: The Lady’s daylilies (June 25, 2021). This past week, I saw that Lady Liberty’s perennial visitors (which were actually on the site in greater abundance prior to the arrival of the Statue; e.g., 2017 Google Street View), orange daylilies, have started to brighten Her location in exile, and I twice took photos. Orange daylilies have always been a favorite of mine, but the array at Erie Boulevard and Union Street could not distract me from all the other ugly elements at the site. 

. . LLdaylilies

LadyStepchild-daylilies

Daylilies are, of course, not lilies, and some call them “outhouse lilies” and “roadside lilies.” Given the City’s treatment of our Liberty Replica, it is probably a good thing that a flower that takes minimal (some say virtually no) maintenance or additional expense has established itself on the site. Much of the site is still without a flowerbed like the one across the street. The only excuse that I can think of for this shabby situation is that the Mayor is finally going to send Lady Liberty home  [as again advocated by “Mr. Schenectady Vets” Jim Wilson, in a Gazette LTE, 27Jun2021], and so did not want to expend additional funds at the ugly corner. However, I’m not holding my breath.

preLLexile2017followup (une 30, 2021): My suspicious mind got me wondering whether the daylilies (along with the hydrangeas along the RR wall) were on the site before Lady Liberty ended up at the corner of Erie Blvd. and Union St.  Thanks to the Google Street-view timeline, I was able to answer the question. Yes, there were effusive stands of dayliliies at the site, with hydrangeas, too, before the arrival of Lady Liberty. Some of the Google street views seem to show more daylilies than have survived there. The image at the right is from 2017. (There were also four, not two, healthy evergreen trees between Lady Liberty’s location and the parking lot.) So, we can thank Mother Nature, and not the Mayor or his co-conspirators for the bit of beauty growing naturally near our Lady Liberty replica. 

UNLIGHTED LADY

As we pointed out in a posting in March 2020, Lady Liberty in Exile has no lighting of any sort to illuminate Her, while the empty sculpture base at Gateway-Liberty Park is well-lighted from dusk to dawn everyday:

Similarly, Edison and Steinmetz get the treatment of a respected monument, well-lit at its corner of S. Liberty St. and Erie Boulevard, four blocks south of the Lady Liberty in Exile (and, with benches for visitors):

EdisonSteinmetzLighted28Sep2021

This disparate treatment is ironic, given that the sculptor of the original Statue of Liberty called it “Liberty Enlightens the World.”

update (August 24, 2021): Two years after being dumped at its new location, the Replica of Lady LIberty sits in an overgrowth of weeds that symbolize neglect and disrespect of City Hall and especially Mayor McCarthy.

StepChildLiberty-2yrs