New Sculpture on Centre Street Inverts Myth to Send a Feminist Message
Sculptor Luciano Garbati’s “Medusa with the Head of Perseus,”
now on display in Collect Pond Park, on Centre Street.
In a caustic counterpoint to the “Fearless Girl” statue that attracted worldwide attention after it was unveiled at Bowling Green in 2017, a new feminist icon is calling Lower Manhattan’s streetscape home.
Standing in the center of Collect Pond Park (bounded by Centre, Lafayette, and White Streets), “Medusa with the Head of Perseus” makes a stark statement about violence against women. The bronze depicts the Medusa of Greek myth holding aloft the head of the hero who is said to have slain her.
This is a case of topical turnabout: in the original narrative, Medusa was raped by Poseidon in a temple consecrated to the goddess Athena. In one of history’s earliest cases of blaming the victim, Athena punished Medusa (rather than her attacker), turning the woman’s hair into a writhing mass of snakes that would turn to stone anyone who gazed at her. Athena then sent Perseus to kill Medusa.
But sculptor Luciano Garbati has flipped this script, imagining instead that Medusa triumphed over her male attacker. An initial version of this vision was first fashioned in resin, in 2008. A decade later, it became the centerpiece of a pop-up exhibition on the Bowery, and was adopted by feminists who circulated photos online with the caption, “Be thankful we only want equality and not payback.”
After this meme went viral, Mr. Garbati created a new vision of his statue, in bronze, and applied to the City’s Art in the Parks program, which approved the installation through April 2021.
The location is significant. “Medusa with the Head of Perseus” stands facing the front door of the Criminal Courts building, where Harvey Weinstein was convicted earlier this year of rape and sexual assault, and sentenced to 23 years in prison.
“Fearless Girl” (which was later moved to Broad Street, opposite the New York Stock Exchange) is an upbeat icon of encouragement, urging girls and women to overcome obstacles, and originally conceived to protest the lack of female seats on corporate boards. “Medusa with the Head of Perseus” appears to be something else entirely—perhaps less about inspiration than an ominous word of caution.
Decrying the Decree
CB1 Backs Stringer on Rescinding Mayor’s Emergency Authority
Community Board 1 is taking the unusual step of demanding that the administration of Mayor Bill de Blasio alter a policy that is citywide in its breadth, and does not specifically apply to Lower Manhattan.
The policy at issue is Emergency Executive Order 101, proclaimed by the Mayor in March of this year as the pandemic coronavirus was beginning to threaten New York. The original rationale for this order was to suspend temporarily the cumbersome regulations that usually apply to purchases of goods and services by the City government. The Mayor argued that this discretion was necessary, in order to facilitate the rapid procurement of medical supplies, such as personal protective equipment (PPE) and ventilators. To read more…
Downtown Traffic May Ease with Split Verrazzano Toll
The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) is poised to implement federal legislation (enacted in 2019) that will modify the tolling regimen on a bridge barely visible on the horizon from Lower Manhattan, but this may nonetheless reduce traffic congestion Downtown. To read more…
Poet, performer, and critical writer Rosamond S. King reads from Rock | Salt | Stone (Nightboat, 2017) and All the Rage (Nightboat, forthcoming 2021).
Downtown Voters Are Biden Their Time
Local Electoral Patterns Show Varying Levels of Enthusiasm for Presidential Contenders
The City’s Board of Elections (BOE) has released unofficial local results for last week’s presidential election, which offer some insights into voting patterns at the community level. The portion of the 65th Assembly District served by the Broadsheet (a jagged line running from west to east, roughly connecting Vesey Street, Fulton Street, Park Row, and the Brooklyn Bridge), is divided into 25 election districts, or neighborhood-level precincts.
The total for all of these polling places was 9,191 votes cast. The ticket of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris (running on the Democratic Party and Working Family Party lines) took a total of 7,059 of these ballots (or approximately 76.8 percent). The incumbents—President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence, running under the Republican Party and Conservative Party banners—tallied 1,939 votes (or roughly 21 percent). To read more…
Local Small Business Swims Against the Tide by Reopening
In Italian, the word “inatteso” means “unexpected”—which is an apt adjective to describe what a small business in Battery Park City is doing. At a time when large enterprises, from the Century 21 department store to the restaurant, bar, and catering facility at Pier A, are shuttering, a spunky upstart is voicing optimism by reopening.
The Tale of the Ticker Tape, or How Adversity and Spontaneity Hatched a New York Tradition
What was Planned as a Grand Affair became a Comedy of Errors
New York’s first ticker-tape parade erupted spontaneously from bad weather
and an over-zealous stockbroker.
While the festivities in New York Harbor didn’t go as scripted that afternoon, the spontaneous gesture it generated from the brokerage houses lining Broadway famously lives on more than a century later.
On October 28, 1886, Liberty Enlightening the World was to be unveiled to New York City and the world as it stood atop its tall base on Bedloe’s Island. But the morning mist had turned to afternoon fog, blurring the view of the statue from revelers on the Manhattan shore and the long parade of three hundred ships on the Hudson River.
What was planned as a grand affair-with President Grover Cleveland as the main speaker-became a comedy of errors. The fog prevented efficient communication between the dignitaries on the island and the ships awaiting orders to fire their salutes and blast their horns at the given signal.
Even the dramatic unveiling moment itself went awry. To read more…
TODAY IN HISTORY
1927 – Holland Tunnel, first twin-tube underwater auto tunnel,
opens connecting New York and New Jersey
1002 – English king Ethelred II launches massacre of Danish settlers
1789 – Ben Franklin writes “Nothing . . . certain but death & taxes”
1851 – Telegraph connection between London-Paris linked
1851 – The Denny Party lands at Alki Point, the first settlers of what would become Seattle, Washington.
1854 – “New Era” sinks off NJ coast with loss of 300
1865 – PT Barnum’s New American museum opens in Bridgeport
1895 – First shipment of canned pineapple from Hawaii
1909 – Collier’s magazine accuses U.S. Secretary of the Interior Richard Ballinger of questionable dealings in Alaskan coal fields.
1913 – First modern elastic brassiere patented by Mary Phelps Jacob
1920 – Hudson River frozen at Albany
1921 – “Sheik,” silent film starring Rudolph Valentino, is released
1927 – Holland Tunnel, 1st twin-tube underwater auto tunnel, opens
1935 – Anti-British riots in Egypt
1940 – Walt Disney’s “Fantasia” released 1942 – Minimum draft age lowered from 21 to 18
1946 – First artificial snow produced from a natural cloud, Mt Greylock, MA
1952 – False fingernails on the market
1958 – NYC Mayor Robert Wagner announces plans to begin a new baseball called the Continental League
1964 – Pope Paul VI gives tiara to poor
1970 – Flooding ravages Ganges delta, 200,000-1 million killed
1970 – VP Spiro Agnew calls TV executives “impudent snobs”
1971 – Mariner 9, first to orbit another planet (Mars)
1980 – US spacecraft Voyager I sent back 1st close-up pictures of Saturn
1980 – Gabriella Brum, 18, of West Germany crowned 30th Miss World, she resigns the next day, because she wants to marry her 52 year old boyfriend
1982 – Vietnam War Memorial dedicated in Washington DC
1984 – David Levy finds his first comet
1985 – Nevado del Ruiz volcano erupts in Colombia, kills 25,000
1986 – President Reagan confesses weapon sales to Iran
1997 – “Lion King,” opens at New Amsterdam Theater NYC
2001 – War on Terrorism: In the first such act since World War II, President George W. Bush signs an executive order allowing military tribunals against foreigners suspected of connections to terrorist acts or planned acts on the United States.
354 – Augustine of Hippo, Roman bishop and theologian (d. 430)
1699 – Jan Zach, Czech violinist, organist, and composer (d. 1773)
1715 – Dorothea Erxleben, German first female medical doctor (d. 1762)
1850 – Robert Louis Stevenson, Scottish novelist, poet, and essayist (d. 1894)
1856 – Louis Brandeis, American lawyer and jurist (d. 1941)
1934 – Peter Arnett, New Zealand-American journalist and academic
1934 – Garry Marshall, American actor, director, and producer (d. 2016)
1868 – Gioachino Rossini, Italian pianist and composer (b. 1792)
First Lady of Lower Manhattan Recognized, Half a Century On
If you live in Lower Manhattan, and are even remotely fond of the community, you owe a debt of gratitude to the woman who saved it from slum clearance and multiple highway schemes. The late Jane Jacobs (she died in 2006) was recognized last week with a plaque outside her longtime home at 555 Hudson Street, in the West Village. To read more…
Validating the Vision
CB1 Offers Qualified Endorsement to Plans for Brooklyn Bridge Revamp
The August designation of two winners in the Reimagining Brooklyn Bridge design competition has spurred Community Board 1 (CB1) to weigh in about the pragmatic implications of the vision contained in the proposals. To read more…
Contract One, Station One
The Jewel in
Just below the surface of City Hall Park sits one of New York’s architectural gems. Built during the City Beautiful movement, its design sought to uplift the spirits of New Yorkers on their daily commute.
City Hall Loop station—Contract One, Station One—was the flagship of New York’s first subway and the focus of the international press on October 27, 1904, when Mayor George McClellan connected the Tiffany-designed motorman’s handle to propel the first train north to its endpoint on 145th Street and Broadway.
The design of the other twenty-seven stations it stopped at that afternoon was dictated by the practical needs of subway efficiency—the architect’s only role was to choose the tile work that would cover the structural columns and walls. But the station below City Hall Park is different. Here, design and structure are one in the same.
City Hall subway station, was designed to be the showpiece of the new subway system with its elegant platform and mezzanine featured Guastavino tile, skylights, colored glass tilework and brass chandeliers.