Bring Civic Virtue Back To Queens

To The Editor:

An open letter to Queens Borough President Melinda Katz: Last week, I was in the audience at Queens Community Board 9 and heard you speak about how the election of Bill de Blasio represented a “change” towards greater responsiveness to communities’ needs, which you said reverberated to all elected officials, including yourself. Imagine my surprise, then, when I read in the Queens Tribune that you are refusing to support the return of “Triumph of Civic Virtue” – the colossal public art statue – to Queens Boulevard, despite it having already been restored at taxpayer expense, and despite your constituents’ desire to have the statue returned. Instead, you support the re-purposing of the Queens Boulevard site – a plan hatched internally within Borough Hall by your predecessors with NO public input, and which the public has never said it wants.

Civic Virtue’s non-human female sea sirens, or drakaina (that adorned the statue’s bedrock platform base), were unfairly visited with false, arbitrary ascriptions of misogyny by former BP Helen Marshall and her predecessor Claire Shulman — and not representative of the evidence and facts that a majority rule of its citizens wholly supported in keeping the statue where it had always remained since 1941. No one ever appointed any official to serve as public art censor. To allow a public work of art that was gifted to Queens by former Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia intentionally fall into ruin and decay because of personal, false beliefs is tantamount to a dereliction of public duty, and at its worst, a sinfully negligent act of betrayal that underscores taxation without representation.

Now that you are Queens Borough President, it is time for democracy and freedom to be rightfully restored (like Civic Virtue itself), to the constituents that you purportedly serve.  Its restoration already now paid at taxpayer expense, the free people of Queens have voiced a resounding ‘Yes’ to Civic Virtue’s return — and what a sight to behold, when the fountain upon which it will once again rest will also be repaired and working — just like the fountain I visited two days ago in front of Mayor de Blasio’s City Hall. Doesn’t Queens Borough Hall also deserve a working fountain of timeless art?

Members of my organization met with your staff members on April 8 to request your support for Civic Virtue’s return. In the nine weeks since, no one at Borough Hall has gotten back to us, or returned any messages left. If you are sincere in professing to be responsive to the community’s wishes, then please consider supporting our efforts, together with Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley and Senator Joseph Addabbo, Jr. (among others) – instead of an internal plan of Borough Hall that the public never said it wanted.

Richard Iritano,
Civic Virtue Task Force