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 huge, unsightly utility pole, etc., and with scarred and marred retainer 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 east on 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. 

 

Will Civic Pride Save Schenectady’s Liberty Replica?

. . Her Sisters are All Treated Better

The photo at the top of this post was taken on January 19, 2021. The scene remains the same three weeks later, as I prepare this posting. It’s been about a year and a half since Mayor Gary McCarthy, prompted by  Planning Commission Chair Mary Moore Wallinger, exiled Schenectady’s BSA Liberty replica from Her home of 67 years to this dismal site, rather than returning The Lady to Gateway-Liberty Plaza, as promised. The site still has no marker nor plaque identifying the statue or its source. I walk or drive by almost daily, and have never seen another human being visiting the Statue, except for a man sleeping on the retainer wall once. It took nagging by me to get the City to do something about the damage done to that wall by a snow plow just before Christmas. As you can see, the “something” was to gather and pile up the blocks that had been knocked onto the sidewalk, and place three safety cones. 

Rather than merely assume that no other city or town treats its BSA Statue of Liberty replica so shabbily 70 years after they were erected, I searched online for images of the 100+ extant statues. I discovered two compilations of BSA Liberty Replica images, and found (1) photos of 117 of the replicas at http://passbagger.org/statue-of-liberty.htm [many thanks to all the participants who visited on their motorcycles and gathered the images]; and (2) an archived page of Replica thumbnail shots compiled by BSA Troop 101 of Cheyenne, Wyoming. The original post by Troop 101 linked each thumbnail to a full photo, but only the thumbnails remain in the archive. The top of that webpage can be seen in the image to the right of this paragraph; and immediately below is a screen-shot of the bottom of that page, from web.archive.org. 

In my opinion as a citizen and prolific photographer of public places, every single BSA Liberty Replica in the nation stands on a far more appropriate and attractive spot. You can draw your own conclusions by browsing through the PassBagger collection. Rather than being accused of cherry-picking the best examples from around the country, I have decided to present here images of every one of the Liberty Replica statues in New York State that were placed as part of the 1950 Boy Scouts of America 40th Anniversary project, “Strengthen the Arm”. 

BSA Liberty Replicas stand in six Upstate communities. In alphabetical order: LeRoy, Niagara Falls, Olean, Oleonta, Schenectady, and Utica. Schenectady’s Lady Liberty was placed in storage in 2017, to be left for two years without being cleaned or repaired prior to being unceremoniously exiled to its current location. In contrast, at about that time, two of the communities, LeRoy and Utica, raised the funds to have their Liberty Statue and its base totally refurbished.

  • Click on a mosaic square below to see a full version of the image; scroll over the image to see its location.

It’s difficult to read what the Village of LeRoy (pop. under 8,000) did to honor and save its replica of Lady Liberty without being embarrassed for Schenectady and its Mayor. Click on the thumbnail at the head of this paragraph, or the following link, to read “Leroy to be Recognized” (LeRoy Pennysaver, October 22, 2017, by Lynne Belluscio, Director of The LeRoy Historical Society.) Led by their Historical Society, the people, companies and organizations of LeRoy contributed over $15,000 and many services to “save” their Lady Liberty. See also, The Batavian (March 7, 2016); and Rochester Democrat & Chronicle (July 2, 2016). 

 . .

. . above: [R] LeRoy Liberty replica, pre-rehab; [2] refurbished statue in LeRoy House,, awaiting rededication at its creekside home.

Here are other views of Upstate NY BSA Liberty Replicas:

. . in Oneonta:

  . . in Olean

. . Utica’s Replica being refurbished

Schenectady’s Lady in Exile at Union St. & Erie Boulevard:

 . .

 . .

Will Civic Pride (or Shame) Help Lady Liberty? Schenectady’s City Council approved the Comprehensive Gateway Plaza Plan in 2013, which included the return of our Liberty Replica to the newly configured Plaza once construction was complete. Mayor McCarthy signed the resolution adopting that Plan. Mary Wallinger was the primary author of The Plan, with its call for the return of Lady Liberty. Neither McCarthy nor Wallinger ever explained to Council or the public why the Liberty Replica was sent away. To date, despite the popularity of the Liberty Park location, City Council has not had the courage to demand that Mayor McCarthy obey the resolution they passed and the Mayor signed in 2013, and return Lady Liberty to Gateway Plaza, which incorporates the statue’s original home, Liberty Park.

. . still available 

Not only did the Comprehensive Plan include a $10,000 line item to pay for the return of Lady Liberty. It also placed a still-empty central sculpture base at virtually the same spot where Lady Liberty stood until August 2017. Last year, Mayor McCarthy did not even respond to two messages from a neighborhood leader offering to move the Replica to this sculpture base at no cost to the City. The photo immediately above and the one below this paragraph depict that ready-for-the-Lady sculpture base, with its seating and space for visitors.

. . 

Unlike the Lady’s Location in Exile, the Plaza’s sculpture base is fully lighted at night. Here’s what they looked like just after sunset on March 20, 2020:

Over the past few years, arguments based on honest government and transparency, respect for public opinion, local history, and the values Lady Liberty embodies, and even basic aesthetics in our so-called Renaissance (and Smart) City, have all failed to move Mayor Gary McCarthy to return Schenectady’s Lady Liberty replica to its Home Park. I’m hoping that this presentation comparing the fate of Schenectady’s Lady Liberty with the respect Her Sister receive in other upstate communities, will hit the mark and let Civic Pride inspire a change of heart the part of Mayor McCarthy, and change of location for Lady Liberty.