Group Advocating For Civic Virtue Forms

BY LUIS GRONDA
Staff Writer

The push to bring back the Triumph of Civic Virtue statue to Queens has been renewed.

A new group, which is called the Civic Virtue Task Force, has formed to advocate for the structure to be returned to where it used to be displayed near Queens Borough Hall.

The statue was moved to Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn in December 2012, after cemetery officials came to an agreement with the City to restore the structure and display it on the cemetery premises.

The newly-restored Triumph of Civic Virtue statue at Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn, at left, seen next to its more run-down incarnation outside Queens Borough Hall.

The newly-restored Triumph of Civic Virtue statue at Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn (right), seen next to its more run-down incarnation outside Queens Borough Hall.

The statue has been the subject of much controversy since it first came to New York in 1922, with opponents saying the statue is offensive to women.  It was first displayed at City Hall, but former Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia banished the statue to Queens after criticism increased. Elected officials in Queens, including former Borough President Clare Shulman, tried to get the statue moved as well, but were unsuccessful.

Richard Iritano, the president and co-founder of the group, said the statue should return to its former home in Kew Gardens and they will make their voices loud and clear on this issue.

“It belongs in a public forum among the living, not vanished to a cemetery with the dead,” he said.

Other members of the group include CB9 chairman Ralph Gonzalez, CB9 District Manager Mary Ann Carey and activist Jon Torodash, who ran on the Civic Virtue line against Councilwoman Karen Koslowitz (D-Forest Hills) last year and has advocated for the statue to be returned as well.

The group hopes to get the support of Queens Borough President Melinda Katz, but that appears to be unlikely.

In its press release, the group said they met with two of Katz’s staffers, Barry Grodenchik and Nayelli Valencia, to state their case for bringing the statue back to Queens. Iritano said that Grodenchik told them they would consider that, along with other options for the site, and have more meetings scheduled with them in the future.

When asked about the issue and the meeting, a spokesperson for Katz said the Borough President’s position on what to do with the vacant area remains unchanged from what she said earlier this year: she prefers that the site be converted to a plaza that honors women of Queens and outside the City for the work they have done. This was an idea first mentioned by her predecessor, Helen Marshall.

Iritano said Grodenchik gave them the impression that they would consider bringing back the statue and they had no knowledge of Katz’s position prior to their meeting with Katz’s staffers in April of this year.

Katz’s spokesperson said they should have not gotten that impression and the Borough President’s position on the matter remains unchanged, despite the meeting.

A spokesperson for the cemetery also provided a statement, saying Green-Wood will be responsible for its care as long as it is displayed at the cemetery.

“This magnificent work of art has been meticulously restored and now has a place of honor on our grounds, where it is seen every year by tens of thousands of visitors, including students on school trips, tour groups, art aficionados, nature lovers and others,” said Colleen Roche, the cemetery’s spokesperson.

Roche added that Green-Wood has spent more than $200,000, in restoring the statue, including transporting it from Kew Gardens to Brooklyn.

Reach Luis Gronda at (718) 357-7400, Ext. 127, lgronda@queenstribune.com, or @luisgronda.