Downtown New Yorkers Protest Governor Cuomo’s Plan for a $3 Million Monument to Essential Workers, Saying They Weren’t Consulted

Residents say they would lose valuable green space in a local park.

Rendering of the Essential Workers Monument titled
Rendering of the Essential Workers Monument titled "Circle of Heroes." Courtesy Office of Governor Cuomo.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo is embroiled in yet another controversy over the construction of a monument in New York City.

Cuomo’s office unveiled plans for the Essential Workers Monument last week, just as New York’s COVID-19 state of emergency expired, with the promise that it would be installed in Battery Park City by September 6, 2021.

Residents of the Manhattan neighborhood are not pleased.

An petition on change.org calling on Governor Cuomo to relocate the monument has gathered more than 6,000 signatures so far, and the hashtag #PauseTheSaws is gaining traction on Twitter.

Local politicians including Christopher Marte, a candidate for New York City Council, councilwoman Margaret Chin, and representative Jerry Nadler, are amplifying local residents’ calls for Cuomo to stop construction, which they say would replace a grassy area with concrete.

Chin sent a letter to Cuomo urging him to halt the plan, writing that the announcement of the site and the expedited construction process “came as a shock to my office and the local Battery Park City residents.”

Chin noted that it would be the third memorial in recent years to be erected in the park, including one for Hurricane Maria built in 2018 and one for Mother Cabrini Memorial, which was erected two years later amid another controversy.

None of the projects “included any form of public engagement,” Chin wrote, suggesting the proposed memorial be moved to another location.

“Residents rightly point out that a memorial of this magnitude should be in a more central location,” she wrote.

Over the past several days, dozens of people came to the park to protest the construction. “We were all blindsided by this,” resident Tristan Snell told CBS. “There was no community involvement. There was no community input. There was nothing.”

Local residents and children gathered in the park to protest the memorial construction. Photo: Twitter.

Local residents and children gathered in the park to protest the memorial construction. Photo: Twitter.

Essential workers also chimed in on social media.

Rafael E. Torres, a former ER director at White Plains Hospital who now oversees a vaccination program for more than 22,000 people, according to his Twitter bio, said the plan should be re-examined.

As an ER physician I agree with honoring all essential workers, but reconsider this plan,” he tweeted on June 27. “Open green space has been essential during the pandemic for NY’ers. I don’t want green space sacrificed in our honor. #PauseTheSaws.”

Rendering of the Essential Workers Monument titled "Circle of Heroes." Courtesy Office of Governor Cuomo.

Rendering of the Essential Workers Monument titled “Circle of Heroes.” Courtesy Office of Governor Cuomo.

The monument, titled The Circle of Heroes, is meant to be made of 19 red maple trees, representing frontline workers, encircling an eternal flame with a large plaque nearby.

With a price tag of $3 million, the project would involve bulldozing about 3,000 square feet of Rockefeller Park’s total 143,000 square-feet of open lawns, or two percent of the total green space.


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