New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio (D) is reportedly removing a statue of Thomas Jefferson from City Hall’s Council chambers where it has stood for the past 187 years.
“The city’s Public Design Commission — comprised of mayoral appointees — has listed ‘the long term loan’ of the 1833 painted plaster statue of the Declaration of Independence author to the New-York Historical Society on its ‘consent’ agenda for Monday,” the New York Post reported Wednesday.
— New York Post (@nypost) October 13, 2021
The designation meant the statue’s removal has not been scheduled for public debate, and the design commission would vote on de Blasio’s move once it examined public comments, according to a City Hall spokesman.
A replica of the figure by sculptor Pierre-Jean David is still housed in the Capitol Rotunda located in Washington, DC.
“This statue of Thomas Jefferson was the first full-length portrait statue placed in the U.S. Capitol Building. Its bronze medium was unusual in early 19th-century America, where sculpture was more commonly carved in marble,” the Architect of the Capitol website read:
Thomas Jefferson is depicted in his best known role as author of the Declaration of Independence. He stands in a dynamic contrapposto pose with his right hand holding a quill pen. The pen’s tip points to Jefferson’s left hand, which holds the Declaration of Independence. Jefferson’s famous words, which are readable, were created by pressing type into the statue’s clay model. Two bound books—perhaps representing the collection that he donated to the Library of Congress—and a wreath, a symbol of victory, lie at his feet. The statue’s pedestal is composed of marble and granite, in contrasting colors. The front inscription reads “JEFFERSON.”
The terms of the loan to the historical society for the statue, given to City Hall by naval officer Uriah Phillips Levy in 1834, are currently being negotiated.
Meanwhile, Councilman I. Daneek Miller (D-Queens) who has urged removal of the Jefferson statue, explained the loan was “indefinite,” adding he expected it to be gone by October 21 when the City Council’s next body-wide meeting was scheduled.
However, one council member was not happy with the idea.
“The de Blasio administration will continue the progressive war on history as he, himself, fades away into a portrait on a City Hall wall,” Councilman Joe Borelli (R-Staten Island) said during an interview with the Post.
“I hope he is at least gone a couple hundred years before someone cancels him,” Borelli added.
According to a mayoral spokesman, “The city would still own the plaster model, and the historical society would include it in educational exhibits and provide valuable historical context.”
The planned removal comes following the mayor’s decision to charge his wife, Chirlane McCray, with deciding what to do with the sculpture as leader of the Commission on Racial Justice and Reconciliation, the Post article said.