New York City may soon be removing statutes of George Washington and other influential historical figures who profited from slavery or “committed crimes against humanity” against “indigenous populations.”
New York City’s council agenda for Tuesday, September 19 contains debate over a bill that would “require the Public Design Commission (PDC) to publish a plan to remove works of art on City property that depict a person who owned enslaved persons or directly benefitted economically from slavery, or who participated in systemic crimes against indigenous peoples or other crimes against humanity.”
Under the proposed criteria, statues or other monuments dedicated to influential historical figures such as George Washington and Christopher Columbus could be removed. This would include several famous landmarks that have stood in the city for generations.
Under the proposed bill, the PDC would be required to install a plaque detailing a historical figures’ “crimes” if a statue or work of art was allowed to remain standing. “This bill would also require the Department of Transportation to consult with the Department of Education to install plaques on sidewalks or other public space adjacent to schools that are named after a person that fits the criteria,” reads a summary of the legislation.
The push to remove statues of America’s founders in New York City is not new. In 2021, a statue of Thomas Jefferson was removed from City Hall after standing in place since 1883.
Other items included on the agenda include the establishment of a citywide “school diversity monitor” who would “monitor racial segregation in the city’s school system, including charter schools under the jurisdiction of the Department of Education (DOE) and would make recommendations to alleviate disparate impact discrimination.”
The council will also vote on the establishment of a “Commission on Racial Equity” to examine the city’s history of involvement with the African slave trade. The panel would also be tasked with calculating reparations payments.