President of the Ford Foundation Darren Walker a member of the city's commission on public monuments. Photo by Dave Kotinsky/Getty Images for Ford Foundation.

As a nationwide debate roils on over public monuments that idolize notorious figures like Confederate generals, New York City is closely studying its own statuary, plaques, and monuments for any that might be deemed offensive. The city has formed a committee that’s combing the city’s monuments, and posted an online survey so that the public can weigh in on the matter. Now, New York is organizing a series of public meetings, one in each of the city’s five boroughs, to take place during the latter half of this month.

Heading up the hearings will be the committee’s two co-chairs: Tom Finkelpearl, commissioner of the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, and Darren Walker, president of the Ford Foundation. Mayor Bill di Blasio appointed the commission in September, giving them 90 days to come up with “guidelines on how the city should address monuments seen as oppressive and inconsistent with the values of New York City,” as a press release indicated.

“Our public spaces belong to New Yorkers, and their input is crucial to the monuments commission’s work,” said Tom Finkelpearl, commissioner of the city’s Department of Cultural Affairs. “As we develop guidelines around public art and monuments, we need to hear their thoughts on the best way to foster public spaces that reflect who we are as New Yorkers. Through these public hearings and our online survey, we’re making sure this important conversation is grounded in the ideas, thoughts and concerns of the people who call our city home.”

The statue of Christopher Columbus in the middle of Columbus Circle in New York City. (Photo by Andrew H. Walker/Getty Images)

Also part of the brain trust reviewing the monuments are two MacArthur “genius” grant awardees, artists Shahzia Sikander and Teresita Fernández; singer and civil rights activist Harry Belafonte; and World Trade Center Memorial designer Ron Arad.

The schedule for the hearings appears on the city’s website, along with a form that lets you sign up to testify in advance. Here it is:


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