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MTA to Replace Times Square Subway Tiles That Look Like Confederate Flags

The MTA says it will replace tiles in the Times Square subway station that bear an uncanny resemblance to Confederate flags.

The transit agency won’t say if the decision to change the tiles is related to the deadly unrest in Charlottesville, Virginia, over the weekend. But the move comes as state and local governments across the U.S. are taking down symbols of the Confederacy, including a number of statues.

The tiles have been at the 40th Street entrance of the Times Square station since the early 20th Century, when they were created in honor of Adolph Ochs, a former head of the New York Times who was interred with a Confederate flag.

The MTA says the emblems are not Confederate flags, but symbols related to a longtime nickname for Times Square. 

"These are not Confederate flags, it is a design based on geometric forms that represent the ‘Crossroads of the World,’” MTA spokesman Kevin Ortiz said in a statement.

“To avoid absolutely any confusion we will modify them to make that absolutely crystal clear,” he said.

It’s unknown when work to replace the tiles will begin or how the tiles will be replaced. 

The decision comes in the wake of the deadly rally over a Robert E. Lee statue in Charlottesville, Virginia, which has caused communities across the nation to remove Confederate memorials and symbols.

Earlier this week, Gov. Andrew Cuomo and other politicians pressed the U.S. Army to rename two streets named for Confederate generals Gens. Robert E. Lee and Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson on an Army base in Brooklyn. The Army has so far resisted, saying the streets were named for the generals "in the spirit of reconciliation" and to recognize them as individuals, not representatives of "any particular cause or ideology."

Mayor Bill de Blasio has gone even further by announcing plans to conduct a review of all of the city's public art and statues to identify "symbols of hate" for possible removal. The mayor singled out a sidewalk plaque commemorating Nazi collaborator Philippe Petain located on the "Canyon of Heroes" - the 13 blocks of Broadway in Lower Manhattan where ticker tape parades are held - as a likely candidate.

Both Cuomo and de Blasio have also called for removal of busts of Lee and Jackson featured at the Hall of Fame for Great Americans at Bronx Community College.

"Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson will be removed from the CUNY hall of great Americans because New York stands against racism," Cuomo tweeted. "There are many great Americans, many of them New Yorkers worthy of a spot in this great hall. These two confederates are not among them."

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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