An obscure city commission that was ready to rubber-stamp the removal of Thomas Jefferson’s statue from City Hall because he was a slave owner will now hold a public hearing on the matter after The Post revealed the controversial move.
The mayoral nominee had planned to banish a statue of Jefferson from City Hall, where it has stood for nearly 200 years, The Post reported Wednesday.
The city’s 11-member Public Design Commission, consisting of de Blasio, previously designated the “long-term loan” of the plaster model from the 1833 Declaration of Independence to the New York Historical Society as part of its “consent” agenda for Monday.
The designation of consent meant that the removal of the historic statute was planned for an up or down vote of the committee instead of a hearing with public testimony.
But on Thursday afternoon, following questions from The Post and other journalists about the statue, the Public Design Commission sent a revised schedule, citing the controversial Jefferson maneuver as the top item on the public consultation agenda on Monday.
The turning point came after de Blasio tried to distance himself from the basic father’s exile from city council chambers – and claimed Thursday morning that the proposed removal was “motivated” by the legislature.
In June 2020, before de Blasio announced his interest in running for governor, the mayor and his wife Chirlane McCray said their new “Commission on Racial Justice and Reconciliation” would review the status of historic figures in public buildings, including town hall monuments to boats Jefferson and George Washington, who as a general won the Revolutionary War, then became the country’s first president. Washington became a slave owner at the age of 11.
But on Thursday, during a press conference, de Blasio suddenly tried to distance himself from his and the first lady’s involvement in the case. The mayor said he respects the city’s legislature and sees removing the founding father’s model from council chambers as an “understandable request.”
“It came from the Council, not from me or the First Lady,” he claimed. “It was a request from the city council. That was what motivated it.
“I think the important thing here to acknowledge is that the city council spoke out of their belief in what is right for their chamber, for their side of City Hall, and that to me is just a straightforward matter,” he added. “I only respect the Council, I respect [that] it’s their side of the building. That was what created this. … If that’s how they feel, I’ll respect them as another branch of government. ”
De Blasio did not mention the possibility of moving Jefferson’s equality to the side of City Hall controlled by the mayor’s office.
The state’s potential removal comes over a year after several city council members asked the mayor to expel Jefferson from council chambers because the country’s third president owned 600 slaves and expressed racist sentiment.
While de Blasio insisted on Thursday that a “balance” will be struck between honoring “one of the most profound figures” in American history and acknowledging the “deeply troubling” part of the “very complex” Founding Father, a A representative of the New York Historical Society told The Post that “there are no specific plans” to display the sculpture.
“We are in ongoing discussions about the statue,” New York Historical Society spokeswoman Marybeth Ihle wrote Wednesday in an email. “Although there are no specific plans for viewing at the moment, New-York Historical may in the coming years present an exhibit that may include it.”
Meanwhile, Republican mayoral candidate Curtis Sliwa wondered why the mayor had bothered to heed the Jefferson removal request.
“You would say that with all that has gone wrong in New York City, is this really the most pressing issue in the city now in the waning days of de Blasio’s failed mayoralty? Are you removing Thomas Jefferson? Said the founder of the Guardian Angels during a press conference outside City Hall.
He swore that, if elected, to flip Jefferson would bust the boot and return the Jefferson statue to council chambers.
“I say when I am elected mayor of New York City, I will overturn this decision. This statue of Thomas Jefferson should remain in its rightful place, as it has done for 186 years, through depression, through war, through peace, ”he declared. “He was a symbol to look up to, to say that this is what this country stands for, the freedoms that so many of us take for granted.”
Sliwa’s opponent in the November 2 mayoral election, Democratic nominee Eric Adams, said in July that he would rename many city streets and buildings honoring historic people who owned slaves.
“As many as possible,” he told reporters when asked if he would commit to changing every street and building named after a slave owner. “We need to clean up our history.”
On Thursday, he said of the controversy over the Jefferson statue: “Our city’s statues and landmarks must be more representative of the history of New Yorkers and New Yorkers – especially at City Hall. There are a number of appropriate figures to honor in our seat of government who are more directly meaningful to our people and more reflect the history of our city than Thomas Jefferson.
“I am pleased that the Public Design Commission will hear from the public on this issue and I hope they consider uplifting underrepresented faces and communities to be honored and remembered at City Hall and elsewhere in our city.”