Days ahead of planned construction on a monument in Battery Park City to honor essential workers who served on the frontline of the COVID-19 pandemic, protesters stood outside the site calling for a stop to the project.
Demonstrators gathered Saturday near the construction site in hopes of saving the green space before it's replaced with the Circle of Heroes. The group says there have been no public meetings or hearings about plans for the monument, which will call for chopping down trees and replacing grass with concrete.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo last week announced the monument will 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.
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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.
Construction of the Essential Workers Monument is due to be completed by Labor Day, Sept. 6. The commission of labor leaders representing all essential workers chose the Battery Park City location to install the monument. The monument's location will be along the water, in view of the Statue of Liberty.
"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.
Additionally, on Wednesday, it was announced that New York State would provide $25 million in child care scholarships to all essential workers.