City Pushes Plan to Move Iconic Sculpture Away from Bowling Green
“Charging Bull,” the iconic bronze statue that has been staring down Broadway, near Bowling Green, since 1989.
The City’s Public Design Commission (PDC) is slated to consider on Monday a controversial plan that would move Charging Bull—the iconic Arturo Di Modica bronze sculpture that has been snarling and pawing the ground just north of Bowling Green since 1989—to a new location in front of the New York Stock Exchange. Several local leaders are concerned that the administration of Mayor Bill de Blasio is pushing this plan while ignoring community objections.
The City’s Department of Transportation (DOT) has spearheaded the plan, citing concerns about traffic safety (the statue is a popular tourist destination that sits on a small traffic island in the middle of Broadway) and security (because the Police Department says its iconic status and the crowds that it draws make Charging Bull an alluring target for terrorists).
But Lower Manhattan activists and leaders are not swayed by these arguments. Community Board 1 (CB1) enacted a resolution at its May 26 meeting stating that it “opposes the proposal to relocate the Charging Bull Statue from its current location at Bowling Green.” The same measure noted that “the priority of CB1 is to find a solution that addresses the safety issues while allowing the statue to remain at Bowling Green or nearby, possibly in the larger and wider southern end of Bowling Green plaza.”
This followed a packed meeting of CB1’s Waterfront, Parks & Cultural Committee on May 19, at which more than 20 residents of buildings on Broad Street (located directly adjacent to the location which the City envisions as Charging Bull’s new home) turned out to voice concern about traffic, quality of life, and why an object viewed by police as a target for terrorists was being moved to their front doors. “These people are very angry, because they fear this tourist attraction in front of their buildings is going to ruin their quality of life,” notes Todd Fine, a leading Lower Manhattan preservationist.
A rendering of what the statue would look like at its proposed new location.
CB1 chair Anthony Notaro says the Board “approved a resolution at our May board meeting rejecting a proposal from the DOT to move Charging Bull from its current location to a spot on Broad Street near the New York Stock Exchange.” He also notes that “the Waterfront, Parks & Cultural Committee listened to the presentation, then debated, and were unanimous in their rejection of this move, asking DOT to come back to us with what other location options they studied, so could we explore some of those options.”
“The fact that the City is going before the PDC may signal their zeal to advance this,” Mr. Notaro continues, “but CB1 and the community we represent do not support this proposal and are eager to find alternatives.”
Paul Goldstein, chair of CB1’s Waterfront, Parks & Cultural Committee, adds, “it is disappointing that DOT and the City have chosen to proceed with their plan to move Charging Bull to Broad Street despite clear opposition from the community and the Board. This opposition came both from those representing Bowling Green Park, site of Charging Bull since 1989, and the residents on Broad Street who do not want the crowds of tourists overwhelming their already-busy area. The Board asked the City to continue a discussion with us to see if we could make the Bowling Green site work a bit better, but they appear to have no interest in that. I also don’t understand the urgency in proceeding with this relocation plan so quickly, considering the statue has had a lot of success at the Bowling Green site for over 30 years.”
Also opposed to the plan is sculptor Arturo Di Modica, creator of Charging Bull. In a February letter to Mayor de Blasio, he wrote, “I do not authorize or approve moving Charging Bull from its current location on the north plaza of Bowling Green Park to any other location. New York City’s government and its various agencies and officials only have any such authority for works of art owned by the City of New York, and not subject to artist approval. New York City does not own and does not have title to Charging Bull, nor copyright or trademark, so New York City has no such authority to move Charging Bull.”
This may prove to be a potent objection, because Mr. Di Modica does appear to retain legal ownership of his sculpture, with its status being that of an artwork on indefinite loan to the City. According to several people with direct knowledge of Mr. Di Modica’s thinking, he is considering a lawsuit against the City, asserting his right as owner to veto any change in the piece’s location. “If all else fails,” Mr. Fine predicts, “he can simply take the statue away.”
Sculptor Arturo Di Modica: “I do not authorize or approve moving ‘Charging Bull’ from its current location. New York City does not own and does not have title to ‘Charging Bull,’ so New York City has no such authority to move ‘Charging Bull.’”
Charging Bull is etched not only in Lower Manhattan’s landscape, but also the community’s collective memory, because it began as a guerrilla art prank by Mr. Di Modica, in 1989, when he secretly (and illegally) deposited the statue in front of the New York Stock Exchange in the middle of the night. The piece was initially seized and removed by police, although public support subsequently led to it being reinstalled (this time with official approval) at Bowling Green.
Three years ago, Charging Bull became part of a counterpoint tableau, when Fearless Girl—a four-foot bronze statue of a young female striking a jaunty, audacious pose—was stealthily placed in front of Mr. Di Modica’s piece.
Together, Charging Bull and Fearless Girl drew massive crowds, which DOT officials feared were becoming a public safety hazard. In December 2018, the newer statue was moved to Broad Street, facing the New York Stock Exchange. Because Broad Street is closed to most traffic, the crowds that flock to the statue are less worrisome there.
Near the close of 2019, the de Blasio Administration announced that it was evaluating plans to move Charging Bull to an adjacent location on Broad Street. This proposal is part of a larger project, spearheaded by the Downtown Alliance, which aims to beautify the “frozen zone”—a 3,000-feet security perimeter surrounding the New York Stock Exchange, which has enclosed (and limited access to) 19 acres of the Financial District since shortly after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.
This Alliance plan, entitled, “A More Welcoming Wall & Broad: A Vision for Improving the Stock Exchange District,” would, for the first time, acknowledge as permanent, and thus attempt to bring a coherent design vision to, improvised security measures that were hastily implemented in the fall of 2001, but were always described in the years since, in a tortured official euphemism, as “temporary.”
In addition to bringing Charging Bull back to Broad Street, the first phase of the Alliance plan aims to add benches and planters to the intersection to local streets, to enhance the pedestrian environment and improve mobility.
The hearing before the PDC on Monday is the final administrative step required before the City can implement the plan to move Charging Bull.
Reactions to Mariama James’s Story
To the editor:
Mariama James is a dedicated leader of the downtown community and her efforts have improved the quality of life for everyone who lives here.
Mariama’s work advocating for residents in the aftermath of 9/11 has been long, strong and effective. She has given an extraordinary amount of time and energy to help every one of us affected get the resources and medical care so desperately needed.
Mariama is also a long-time member of Community Board 1 – where she serves as co-chair of the Quality of Life Committee. Her efforts have resulted in countless improvements to the entire CB1 District on any number of issues including health and housing.
Most recently, she organized the Board’s Large Venue Working Group to ensure that noise, traffic, and safety are taken into consideration for our neighborhoods.
In sharing her personal story, Mariama James has taken another step in making a better world. This is an opportunity to listen and learn. Thank you Mariama. Black Lives Matter.
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Ms. James moved to Lower Manhattan as a child, in 1971, when her family took up residence in the newly opened Southbridge Towers. “My dad worked for Citibank, at 20 Exchange Place; my mom worked at Bache, on Gold Street, and I was a latchkey kid, attending local schools,” she says. “Race was something we were conscious of, but in different ways. My best friend growing up was Italian, and her family loved me, but always made clear that I was an exception in their eyes.”
Each day, a different encore presentation from the company’s Live in HD series is available for free streaming on the Met website, with each performance available for 23 hours, from 7:30 p.m. EDT until 6:30 p.m. the following day. The schedule will include outstanding complete performances from the past 14 years of cinema transmissions, starring all of opera’s greatest singers.
Virtual performance at home by Amythyst Kiah whose raw and powerful vocals resemble a deeply moving, hypnotic sound that stirs echoes of a distant and restless past. The artist’s eclectic influences span decades, finding inspiration in old time music, alternative rock, folk, country, and blues. From Brookfield Place New York. Free. 12:30pm.
June 12: Today in History
Photo by Weegee Coney Island
1240 – At the instigation of Louis IX of France, an inter-faith debate, known as the Disputation of Paris, starts between a Christian monk and four rabbis.
1381 – Peasants’ Revolt: In England, rebels arrive at Blackheath.
418 – Armagnac–Burgundian Civil War: Parisians slaughter Bernard VII, Count of Armagnac and his suspected sympathizers, along with all prisoners, foreign bankers, and students and faculty of the College of Navarre.
1665 – Thomas Willett is appointed the first mayor of New York City.
1775 – American Revolution: British general Thomas Gage declares martial law in Massachusetts. The British offer a pardon to all colonists who lay down their arms. There would be only two exceptions to the amnesty: Samuel Adams and John Hancock, if captured, were to be hanged.
1817 – The earliest form of bicycle, the dandy horse, is driven by Karl von Drais.
1939 – The Baseball Hall of Fame opens in Cooperstown, New York.
1991 – Russians first democratically elected Boris Yeltsin as the President of Russia.
1994 – Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman are murdered outside Simpson’s home in Los Angeles. Her estranged husband, O.J. Simpson is later charged with the murders, but is acquitted by a jury.
2016 – Forty-nine civilians are killed and 58 others injured in an attack on a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida; the gunman, Omar Mateen, is killed in a gunfight with police.
2017 – American student Otto Warmbier returns home in a coma after spending 17 months in a North Korean prison and dies a week later.
1577 – Paul Guldin, Swiss astronomer and mathematician (d. 1643)
1771 – Patrick Gass, American sergeant (Lewis and Clark Expedition) and author (d. 1870)
1806 – John A. Roebling, German-American engineer, designed the Brooklyn Bridge (d. 1869)
1864 – Frank Chapman, American ornithologist, photographer, and author (d. 1945)
1897 – Anthony Eden, English soldier and politician, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom (d. 1977)
1899 – Weegee, Ukrainian-American photographer and journalist (d. 1968)
1915 – David Rockefeller, American banker and businessman (d. 2017)
1924 – George H. W. Bush, 41st President of the United States
1929 – Anne Frank, German-Dutch diarist; victim of the Holocaust (d. 1945)
1144 – Al-Zamakhshari, Persian theologian (b. 1075)
1778 – Philip Livingston, American merchant and politician (b. 1716)
1963 – Medgar Evers, American soldier and activist (b. 1925)
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