What to Know
- NY officials are reworking plans to build a new COVID-19 pandemic monument in Lower Manhattan following protests over the loss of additional park space
- A state spokesperson confirmed the monument will change locations but would still be planned for Battery Park City
- Construction of the Essential Workers Monument was initially earmarked for completion by Labor Day, Sept. 6
Ten days after Gov. Andrew Cuomo revealed plans to build a new monument in Lower Manhattan honoring New York's essential workers who served on the frontline of the COVID-19 pandemic, the state is now working out a new plan after protesters detoured construction in Battery Park City.
The Circle of Heroes monument eyed for Rockefeller Park faced opposition from neighbors last week critical of the governor's announcement made with seemingly little community input. Critics have been vocal that their opposition is not to the monument itself, but to the potential park loss for another monument in the neighborhood.
A monument honoring New York's frontline heroes would be the third monument installed in Battery Park City within 12 months — the Circle of Heroes was initially projected to be completed by Labor Day. Cuomo unveiled a Hurricane Memorial in March of this year and a statue of Mother Cabrini five months earlier.
"We all want to honor the essential workers, but why does everything have to be in New York City? It’s just because he doesn’t have to go through anyone else’s jurisdiction in Battery Park," Councilmember Margaret Chin told Curbed.
Chin represents the neighborhood and wants the governor and his staff to open dialogue with its residents to reach a resolution. It's a request Battery Park City Authority Chairman George Tsunis tried to meet on Thursday.
Tsunis met with neighbors at a meeting in the park to respond to comments and concerns following days of protests. After more than an hour with them, Tsunis told residents the location would change but remain in Battery Park City.
"Over the next week the Battery Park City Authority will continue to engage with our neighbors, representatives of essential workers and the Governor's office to discuss the location of the monument in Battery Park City to ensure it is one that's optimal for the entire community," a statement from Tsunis said.
Demonstrators had gathered last Saturday near the construction site in hopes of saving part of the park's green space before crews covered it up. Those opposing the monument's location said there have been no public meetings or hearing about plans for the monument, which will call for chopping down trees and replacing grass with concrete.
Cuomo has said the monument would include 19 red maple trees symbolizing the essential workers who carried New York through the pandemic, including nurses, doctors, healthcare workers, transit workers, police officers, EMTs and paramedics, firefighters, correctional officers, store employees, the National Guard, government employees, building service workers, utility and communications workers, delivery drivers, teachers, sanitation workers, construction and manufacturing workers, food service workers and hospitality workers.
Saturday's protesters say they want to honor the pandemic's essential workers without sacrificing the park space.
"These trees, this green space, it's the largest green space south of Central Park. Parks were vital to the city getting through COVID and we just want to make sure that we don't end up doing something that we can't take back," said Tristan Snell, of the Battery Park City Parents' Association. "We want to measure twice and cut once."
A spokesperson for the governor said the state was proud to plant 19 new trees at the park in a public space to be enjoyed by all New Yorkers.
"This location was chosen in an open process by 23 leaders representing hundreds of thousands of essential workers, and the site design allows for people to continue to enjoy the park space. We look forward to working with everyone who uses this public space and to seeing generations of New Yorkers from across the state enjoy and celebrate this monument," Jordan Bennett, a Cuomo spokesperson, said.
The commission of labor leaders representing all essential workers chose the Battery Park City location to install the monument.
"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," Cuomo said in a statement. "While we will never be able to fully repay our essential workers, we can honor and celebrate them with this monument that will stand forever as a tribute to all that they have done for New York in our greatest moment of need and beyond. These heroes continue to inspire us every day and we are forever grateful for their service and sacrifice."
The monument will also feature an eternal flame as a symbol of New York State's everlasting gratitude for essential workers.
In April, Cuomo announced the formation of the Essential Workers Monument Advisory Committee. The committee, comprised of essential workers, met to advise on locations, design and installation of the Essential Workers Monument.