Statue fuels controversy in Queens

February 25, 2011 2:52:06 PM PST
The work in marble is a triumph of civic virtue, but as of late it is an object of civic distain.

"It's ugly and offensive today and we want it out of Queens," Rep. Anthony Weiner said.

Opponents charge it is sexist.

"Women get off of this stop, get to look at this statue of a man 20 feet high stepping on two women, and then have to go and get services on domestic violence a block away. This is not the message the city should be sending," City Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras said.

An effort to remove it, even sell it through Craig's List, has infuriated statue supporters.

"Just a physical examination would show that these are not human females or a human male. They're sirens, sea serpents, like in Homer's Odyssey," architect Glenn Urbanas said.

Richard Iritano, whose has a degree in art history, believes the focus should be on other issues.

"Not precious works of 20th century art that should remain as part of the history for all mankind in Queens and not covered up in a tarp," he said.

The statue is over 100 years old and was originally placed down in City Hall Park. But it was moved out to Queens during Mayor LaGuardia's administration. As the story goes, the mayor did not like looking at the statue's back side.

Taking a closer look herself, Queens resident Joan Delahunt remembers passing the statue as a child.

She heard the argument of it depicting a man standing on two women and the other of civic virtue triumphant over corruption and vice -- the two sirens at the base.

"You explain it like that, it makes perfect sense. It's a great statue," she said.

But beauty and interpretation appears in this case, as often is, to be in the eye of the beholder.