Residents Rally for a Voice in Decision about Locating Planned Memorial in Rockefeller Park
Battery Park City resident Tristan Snell: “This is being presented as a fait accompli and a done deal. We’re supposed to have a democratic process with decisions like this. But the reason the memorial is being put here is they didn’t feel like they had to do that here, because Battery Park City is a State-run Authority.” photo: Bob Schneck
More than 150 local residents, many of them young children, gathered in Rockefeller Park on Saturday afternoon to protest plans by the administration of Governor Andrew Cuomo to impose there a 29,000-square-foot monument to essential workers who served the public during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Tristan Snell, a Battery Park City resident, and father of a 30-month-old daughter, Katherine, said, “this lawn they are about to tear up is the largest green space in Manhattan south of Central Park. The location they plan to use is where my daughter crawled for the first time. This park is a destination for everybody, not just those of us who live here. And now they want to cut down trees that have been growing here for decades.
“The other big problem with all of this,” he continues, “is the lack of transparency and consultation with the community. This is being presented as a fait accompli and a done deal. We’re supposed to have a democratic process with decisions like this. But the reason the memorial is being put here is they didn’t feel like they had to do that here, because Battery Park City is a State-run Authority.
“Anyplace else in the City, it would take a year to go through all the legally required steps to make this sort of change,” he adds. “We deserve the same process.”
The process referred to by Mr. Snell, an attorney, began last April, when Governor Cuomo announced the formation of his Essential Workers Monument Advisory Committee. Not a single resident of Battery Park City was appointed to this panel, which did not hold any public meetings or solicit any advice or feedback from the community.
A rendering of the design for Governor Cuomo’s planned Essential Workers Essential Workers Monument, which is slated to take up 29,000 square feet of space in Rockefeller Park.
Instead, Governor Cuomo announced on Thursday that his Commission had decided to locate the Essential Workers Memorial in Rockefeller Park, a green space that is heavily used by Lower Manhattan families. This announcement also included renderings of the Memorial’s proposed design, indicating that this decision had been made (but not announced) weeks earlier. The Governor added that construction would begin immediately and that the Memorial was slated for completion by Labor Day.
There is no record that the Cuomo administration or its Advisory Commission took the customary steps of conducting an environmental review or drafting an environmental impact statement gauging the significance of the planned changes to this public space.
Since Governor Cuomo’s Thursday announcement, an informal group of residents has coalesced to demand a more transparent process, and to fight to save Rockefeller Park. Uniting under the social media banner of Pause the Saws, they have gathered more than 1,000 supporters on Facebook, and more than 2,000 signatures on a Change.org petition.
“This has been a catalyst,” Mr. Snell reflects, “and has helped unite a group dedicated to making sure that the voices in this community are heard. This has become a grassroots effort to make sure people are out in force when the construction begins. Our first task is to figure out political and legal strategy, and we are looking at a range of options.”
“We are still very hopeful that we will get more time to have the conversation that should have been had,” he says. “We’re not saying ‘no’ to a monument to essential workers. We are saying, ‘let’s have a conversation about this and figure out how to honor our heroes in the best way possible.’”
The plan to honor essential workers with a memorial in Battery Park City is the latest in a spate of such monuments commissioned by Governor Cuomo, all of which are likely curry favor with politically important constituencies as he faces a tough bid for a fourth term in 2022. In March, he opened the Hurricane Maria Memorial at Chambers Street and River Terrace, which is dedicated to the suffering of that island during the 2017 storm of the same name. In October, 2020, he unveiled the Mother Cabrini Memorial near South Cove, commemorating the female saint who ministered to New York’s poor in the late 1800s, and is especially revered by Italian-Americans. The political value of the Essential Workers Memorial may be gleaned from the fact that 23-member Advisory Committee was comprised entirely of union leaders, in sectors ranging from civil service to the Teamsters. The support of such labor chieftains is considered vital in political campaigns, because their endorsements can assure a candidate of thousands of extra votes, while they are also a prodigious source of financial support.
Earth-moving equipment parked on the lawn in Rockefeller Park is poised to being knocking down some of the oldest, tallest trees in Battery Park City as early as this morning
As of Sunday evening, earth-moving equipment was already parked at the site, and unconfirmed reports indicate that construction crews will begin cutting down some of the oldest, tallest trees in Battery Park City at 6:30 am Monday, June 28.
A rally is planned for Monday morning at 6:45 am at the site (near the basketball court in Rockefeller Park). The petition objecting to the location of the Essential Workers Monument may be accessed here.
‘This Project Will Forever Be a Symbol of Failure’
Community Leaders React to Cuomo Plan for Yet Another Monument in Battery Park City
Governor Andrew Cuomo announced on Wednesday that he plans to erect in Battery Park City an Essential Workers Monument to those who served during the COVID-19 pandemic. “In the beginning of the pandemic, when people were told to stay home, essential workers went into work day after day, making sure their fellow New Yorkers were safe, fed and cared for,” Mr. Cuomo said.
The Governor attributed the decision to locate this monument in Battery Park City to his Essential Workers Monument Advisory Committee, which was announced in April. This panel consisted of 23 union presidents, and not a single resident of Battery Park City. There is no record of this Committee having held any public meetings, or having solicited any advice or feedback from the community. To read more…
I wish to thank and applaud Ms. Meltzer and Ms. Cuccia for their profound conveyance of the sentiments of the Lower Manhattan community and to add that placement of such a monument in BPC, a largely affluent, majority White neighborhood, at least by comparison to those most greatly impacted by COVID, is not only the wrong thing to do in terms of location for many reasons, but is also racially and socially unjust and harmful, a real slap in the face to the many essential workers who traveled here and elsewhere, in the midst of disaster, putting their lives at risk, sometimes for minimum wage jobs, from the outer boroughs…the same people many of whom were on a hunger strike mere months ago fighting for their share in COVID relief…and to the disproportionate number of people of color and/or low incomes who fell ill or died from the virus.
This monument belongs in the Bronx or Queens and could serve to bring those communities desperately needed tourism in addition to the respect and honor they deserve for supporting NY through this tragedy.
The governor did the right thing in signing the NY Heroes Act and allocating $2.1B of the State’s budget to the Excluded Worker Fund. It makes no sense for him to now, just two months later, tell the recipients to go fly a kite.
To the editor:
The BPC community is up in arms about Governor Cuomo’s planned Essential Worker Memorial to be placed in the valued Rockefeller Park. Petition circulating, support needed. As an essential worker (social worker at NYU Langone) I can say that green space and parks are the best way to maintain mental health and cope with the stress of the pandemic. Save our park. Click here to sign the petition.
Spread the word.
To the editor:
Please move the Essential Worker Monument to another location in the state and stop taking away our children’s open play areas.
Battery Park City has been through much turmoil over the years and the littering of monuments across once green space in our residential neighborhood brings daily reminders of sadness to us and to our children who are already struggling emotionally. From the attacks on the World Trade Center, to the East Coast Memorial, to the Irish Hunger, to the Hurricane in Puerto Rico, and the American Merchant Mariners, among countless others, we already have too many reminders.
PLEASE move this monument to another location in the state. Let us continue to enjoy running free in the grass of Rockefeller Park, and please let us keep this park as green and beautiful as it was intended and without the constant reminders of sadness and hard times.
All of us, regardless of our age, want to run free in the vast field of Rockefeller Park green, amongst the trees, bushes and beautiful gardens. We want to continue to enjoy the migrating birds, play soccer, baseball, picnic, fly kites, sunbathe, build snow forts and snow people.
The park is constantly very crowded with friends sharing the beautiful escape. Each of us wants to find solitude as we create our own escape in the current world we live in. We want to provide freedoms to our children, without having to worry about the risk of an eternal flame burning them.
Just stop by and you will see the bustling enjoyment each person feels as they take in the beauty of the grass and the open space and now the heart breaking sorrow and anger as they see the trucks and workers preparing to break ground.
To the editor:
I read the paper almost every day and wonder how these people get elected.
I have been expecting a backlash with each election but it doesn’t seem to happen. But it will.
Goodbye, Mrs. Chips
Valediction for a Local Legend
Multiple generations of local residents gathered yesterday afternoon (Thursday, June 24) outside the Battery Park City Day Nursery to toast the retirement of Janet Lovell, known for decades to kids who enrolled there as, “Ms. Janet.”
Ms. Lovell was one of the first employees at what was then called Joy McCormack’s All Day Nursery, when it opened on South End Avenue in 1986. “I had been working at a childcare center on the Upper East Side, where Joy was one of the directors,” she recalls. “And then Joy wanted to open a new place in Battery Park City, where she saw unlimited potential. Her partners weren’t interested, so Joy struck out on her own, and I came with her.” To read more…
Strengthen the whole body from warm-up to cool-down with a variety of fun exercises. The instructor will lead you in aerobics, balance and coordination exercises, as well as strength training. Come join for a fun workout in the fresh air! Participants are expected to bring their own equipment: weights, water bottle, hand towel, etc. Masks required. Participants must maintain six feet of physical distance between households. All programs will be held in accordance with New York State reopening guidance. Free Battery Park City Authority
CLASSIFIEDS & PERSONALS
Swaps & Trades, Respectable Employment, Lost and Found
The Battery Park City Authority asks that the public not interact with or feed the urban wildlife in the neighborhood’s parks and green spaces, and at the waterfront.
News Analysis & Opinion
Housing Costs and Predictability in Battery Park City
At the Battery Park City Authority, we make it a point to regularly communicate with our community’s residents—renters and owners alike—about our role in managing, maintaining, and improving this world-class neighborhood.
We do so at Community Board meetings and public events, during public board meetings, in our regular community newsletters, and via our Strategic Plan—and even as we encounter each other during our daily routines (as we hope to be doing more of soon).
In this letter, I’d like to talk to you about our role in addressing a concern we hear frequently—housing costs and predictability—and what we’re doing about it.
State Legislature Passes Bill That Offers Path Forward on Affordability
Whoever is elected to the various offices representing Lower Manhattan residents today, they will have to grapple with a legacy policy failure that may yet reprise itself.
For more than a year, as local hotels emptied due to the pandemic, and various Downtown real estate projects stalled, Lower Manhattan leaders have urged elected officials to consider whether (and how) to convert commercial properties (such as hotels and office buildings) to use as residences. To read more…
9/11 Victim Compensation Fund Report
More Survivors than Responders Now are Submitting Claims
The September 11th Victim Compensation Fund (VCF) has released its annual report for 2020, which documents some significant developments.
Over the course of its ten years of operation thus far, the VCF has awarded $7.76 billion to more than 34,400 individuals who have suffered death or personal injury as a result of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 and their aftermath. The vast majority of these injuries take the form of illness caused by exposure to toxic materials that were released by the destruction of the World Trade Center.