State to form committee for essential workers monument in Battery Park City after weeks of backlash

Officials will convene a new committee to decide where to put Governor Andrew Cuomo’s proposed $3 million “Circle of Heroes” monument honoring essential workers after Battery Park City residents and politicians protested the state’s original plans.

“To continue incorporating public feedback into the process, we will put together a new and expanded advisory committee comprised of local stakeholders, essential worker representatives, and others to review options within Battery Park City to select a site and design for a welcome and world-class monument our essential workers so richly deserve,” said George Tsunis, chairman of the state-controlled Battery Park City Authority.

Tsunis previously told locals that the authority would back off Cuomo’s plans to install the tribute at Rockefeller Park on July 2, after heated community backlash. 

Cuomo first announced the proposal on June 23 as a somber installation in the park along Manhattan’s lower west side with 19 red maple trees symbolizing different groups of essential workers and an eternal flame reflecting New York’s forever gratitude to them.

Bulldozers soon arrived in the park and construction was supposed to wrap by Labor Day, Sept. 6, but area residents immediately slammed the plans for including the felling of half a dozen mature trees and destroying a cherished green space, all without input from locals.

Families camped out in the park to block the heavy machinery and launched an online petition to relocate the memorial, which gathered more than 8,000 signatures as of Monday.

The neighborhood already has a wealth of memorials to various crises, the petition notes, including a tribute to Hurricane Maria, an Irish Hunger memorial, the 9/11 Memorial, the American Merchant Mariners’ Memorial, and the East Coast Memorial, both of which honor those who fought in World War II.

Because Battery Park City is controlled by the state authority, it allows Governor Cuomo to bypass city approval processes for memorials.

The back-and-forth echoed Cuomo’s Marsha P. Johnson State Park debacle in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, earlier this year, when state officials abandoned plans for a splashy mural to honor the park’s namesake LGBTQ icon after locals and family of Johnson’s denounced it as a vanity project for the governor.

Local politicians hailed the authority and Cuomo’s decision to halt the project gather more input from the area.

“In a triumph for the community, [Battery Park City Authority] will be establishing an advisory committee that includes local stakeholders to examine the location and design of the proposed Essential Workers Monument for Battery Park City. I appreciate the agency being willing to listen to residents,” wrote Congressman Jerry Nadler on Twitter.