Coronavirus Update New York City: Residents near Battery Park protest monument to essential workers

Coronavirus update for NYC
BATTERY PARK, New York City (WABC) -- Gov. Andrew Cuomo's plan to honor essential workers with a "Circle of Heroes" monument in Battery Park City is not going over well with everyone, as many are upset over the removal of green space.

Now, some are protesting the circular display of 19 maple trees meant to recognize the 19 groups of essential workers who served during the coronavirus pandemic.

Battery Park is beloved by residents and visitors who want to leave the space as is.

"It's actually my front yard and backyard, but it's also the front and backyard for the community," area resident Anthony Basilio said. "If they wanted concrete, they could go anywhere else in the city."

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Excavators have moved in to begin construction on the display, which will also include paved pathways and an eternal flame. But to build that, large shade trees and grass will be torn out.

"I think the 19 essential worker categories need to be honored, but at the same time, I was concerned," Dr. Rafael Torres said. "I was concerned about the size and scope of the project, and where it was going to be built."

Dr. Torres is an emergency physician -- an essential worker -- and a nearby resident.

"What I just want is a moment of pause to make sure that the impact on this community, New York City, on the green space is taken into consideration," he said.

A petition to change the location is circulating, and there's a sit in called "Pause the saws."

"We're going to be staying here until the governor changes their mind about cutting down the trees and maybe honoring the people that work hard in a different way," 8-year-old Mica Basilio said.

A commission of union leaders chose Battery Park for the monument without direct input from the public, and a spokesperson from the governor's office says that this pocket of grass only accounts for 2% of the green space in the park.

But that number is irrelevant to residents.

"I really feel like we should keep the park, trees and grass," 7-year-old Gabriel Zanettini said. "Because trees are very essential for even humans existing."

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There was a brief moment of hope when the machinery moved, but the governor's office says the monument will go up as planned, and the work will continue on the land that's owned by the state.

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