Following the Confederate monument controversy in Charlottesville and other Southern cities, debate has been swirling around New York City statues that could be considered symbols of hate, including The Peter Stuyvesant statue in Stuyvesant Square Park. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)
By Maria Rocha-Buschel
While states in the South wrangle with whether or not to remove statues of Confederate soldiers, the controversy over monuments has moved closer to home for New Yorkers, with a group of Jewish activists advocating for the removal of Peter Stuyvesant’s name and monuments from city property because the former director-general was anti-Semitic. However, residents of Stuyvesant Town and park-goers in Stuyvesant Square this week weren’t having it.
“It’s all a waste of time,” said longtime Stuyvesant Town resident Don Burkett. “It’s all of this politically correct nonsense. All the problems in the country and they’re worried about a statue.”
The New York Post along with a handful of Jewish media outlets reported last week that the Shurat HaDin-Israel Law Center is demanding the mayor remove all mentions of Stuyvesant from city property in a bid to remove “symbols of hate” from the city.
“It would be like if they wanted to rename Gramercy,” said Peg Reilly, an artist who has been living on Avenue C for the last 20 years. “Who cares at this point? It’s history.”
Residents of Stuyvesant Town and park-goers in Stuyvesant Square alike said they weren’t even aware of Stuyvesant’s anti-Semitic proclivities.
Stuyvesant was said to have resisted Jewish refugees from Brazil from settling in New Amsterdam, and was also known to have been against additional religions other than his own, the Dutch Reform Church, such as Quakers and Lutherans. He also wouldn’t allow Jews to fight in the volunteer militia but then taxed them to have someone else fight in their stead.
Statue of Peter Stuyvesant in Stuyvesant Square Park (Photo by Sabina Mollot)
By Sabina Mollot
Most of the time, the monuments built to honor historical figures go unnoticed by New Yorkers. Up on their pedestals, how could they even hope to compete with whatever is below, flashing on park goers’ cell phones? Fortunately for our forefathers, a history-loving Dane has found a way to get the stories behind the statues told today in a modern way.
David Peter Fox, a TV producer and documentary maker from Copenhagen, has for the past 18 months been organizing installations in different cities where statues speak to park goers via their smartphones. The project began in Denmark, then later went on to London and then the Unites States in San Diego and Chicago. Then on Wednesday, July 12, Talking Statues came to New York.
“I got the idea in 2013,” said Fox, reached on the phone this week. “I was curious about the stories that are behind statues.”
To make the project a reality, Fox and others fundraised to be able to hire a team of actors, one to play the part of each statue, and writers to come up with the material. To hear any of the 35 city monuments’ stories, participants just approach a statue, and scan a code on a sign. They will need a wi-fi connection and a QR scanner or scanning app on their phones to do this or they can type the web address they see on the sign. After that, the individual will be contacted from the great beyond.