The New York City Public Design Commission voted unanimously on Monday to move a statue of Thomas Jefferson from the City Council chambers, though it is not clear where the 188-year-old statue will end up, WABC reports.
The statue is to go on "long-term loan" to the New-York Historical Society where it is expected to be displayed along with "educational" material about how Jefferson, the chief architect of the Declaration of Independence and the nation's third president, was also a slave owner.
Part of the disagreement among commission members involves the fact that the Historical Society charges a fee.
One suggestion was the Governor's Room at City Hall, which is a small museum just outside the council chamber. Another would be to move it to the New York Public Library which has a copy of the Declaration of Independence in Jefferson's handwriting.
The statue has long been a controversy in New York, but the effort to remove it gained new momentum in June 2020 when the council sent a letter to Mayor Bill de Blasio asking that it be removed.
"This Administration owes it to the more than five million New Yorkers of color our members — -past, present and future — represent, to resolve that the individuals memorialized within the confines of our People's House be reflective not only of the best traditions of our city's history and its diversity but unquestionable character," read a statement from the council's Black, Latino and Asian Caucus.
"The thing that is so troubling to people is that even someone who understood so deeply the values of freedom and human dignity and the value of each life was still a slave owner," de Blasio has said. "And I understand why that profoundly bothers people."
Councilman Joe Borelli, R-Staten Island, slammed the move, telling the New York Post, "The de Blasio administration will continue the progressive war on history as he, himself, fades away into a portrait on a City Hall wall. I hope he is at least gone a couple hundred years before someone cancels him.
Republican mayoral candidate Curtis Sliwa held a similar sentiment: "Do we suddenly wipe out the images, the markings, the names of all those great patriots because they were slaveholders and slave holding was quite common at that time?" Sliwa said.
His Democratic opponent Eric Adams said, "There are a number of appropriate figures to honor in our seat of government who are more directly meaningful to our people and are more reflective of our city's history than Thomas Jefferson."A replica of the 1833 bronze cast by sculptor Pierre-Jean David is still on display in the Capitol Rotunda in Washington, D.C.
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