NYC Council Considers Removal of Artwork Depicting Historical Figures

( – The history of the United States is long and storied. During the hundreds of years the nation has existed, there have been many controversial events. These events have led to significant developments and driven the US forward. Many historical figures have been honored with statues and monuments, despite opposition. However, in recent years, opponents have spoken out and protested these existing structures, which has resulted in the removal of structures or renaming of many institutions. Now, a New York City Council is considering more changes.

The New York City Council’s Cultural Affairs Committee recently heard proposed legislation by Democratic Councilwoman Sandy Nurse (Brooklyn) to remove artwork in the Big Apple. It specifically focuses on those “that depict a person who owned enslaved persons” or benefitted from slavery, and those who partook in “systemic crimes against indigenous peoples or other crimes against humanity.”

Recognizing that some artwork removal requests may not be approved, the bill stipulates adding an “explanatory plaque” that describes the historical figure’s misdeeds. This pertains not only to statues and monuments throughout the city, but also to schools named after them. In those cases, the plaques would go on sidewalks adjacent to the institutions.

The legislation would target some notable figures, including the nation’s first president, George Washington. Artwork honoring Christopher Columbus and Thomas Jefferson has also come under fire.

The proposed bill has been laid over by the committee, meaning it has withheld action until the next legislative meeting. In the meantime, there have been several vocal opponents to the legislation, including Angelo Vivolo, president of the Columbus Heritage Coalition, and Republican Councilwoman Joann Ariola (Queens).

This is hardly the first time legislative bodies have taken aim at controversial figures. In January, the Department of Defense’s Naming Commission completed its suggestions for Army bases, military ships, streets, and buildings bearing Confederate names. NYC officials have also removed a statue of Jefferson from City Hall in the past.

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