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Statue of limitations: While the Public Design Commission stalls one worthy monument to female heroes of history, Chirlane McCray’s chosen ones remain on the fast track

2019-09-20

Monday, six years after a group of women started their planning, with $1.5 million in private money in the bank and a design and an esteemed sculptor on board, the city’s Public Design Commission told those eager to build a statue to women’s rights pioneers Sojourner Truth, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony to cool their heels.

Never mind the long road already traveled, never mind the fast-approaching centennial of women gaining the right to vote, never mind the fact that there are currently zero (0!) statues of actual women in Central Park. The mayorally appointed panel refused to take yes for an answer.

Perhaps the plans should be tweaked, suggested a commission whose purview is only supposed to extend to a statue’s aesthetic quality. Perhaps Cady Stanton and Anthony, 19th century women who (gasp!) said some racist things, should not be honored in this manner. Perhaps an independent historian could weigh in.

In a deep pool of perhaps, many a worthy project has drowned.

While that train seemingly stalls, other monuments to significant women rush ahead. She Built NYC, which First Lady Chirlane McCray launched just over a year ago with $10 million in public money, has already announced plans to build statues to Rep. Shirley Chisholm, Billie Holiday, Elizabeth Jennings Graham, Dr. Helen Rodriguez Trías and Katherine Walker.

Worthy subjects, properly correcting a male-dominated landscape. Still, in just 15 months, these five (stupidly excluding Mother Cabrini, the hero to immigrants who was the overwhelming choice of an online survey) have sped through the process.

When the mayor’s Public Design Commission reviews the Chisholm monument design and the others cooked up by McCray and her team, surely we can count on every bit as much nitpicking scrutiny as is currently being applied to the Truth-Stanton-Anthony monument.

Right?