SCHENECTADY — Independent City Councilman Vince Riggi couldn’t help but point out the irony regarding the debate over whether the city’s Statue of Liberty replica should be moved to Steinmetz Park during Monday’s City Council meeting.
“I never thought the Statue of Liberty would become such a divisive item.”
It was true.
Several residents from the Goose Hill neighborhood spoke during the public comment period about their wish to have the statue in their park, while several others lobbied for it to be moved back to Liberty Park, now known as Gateway Plaza.
David Bouck, who said he had approximately 200 signatures from Goose Hill residents, said the idea to move the statue came after the neighborhood submitted a proposal to the city. He said the plan was to include the statue in a military veterans memorial. He wanted to make sure, though, to point out he didn’t want it to be a fight between city residents.
“There’s no sinister plot or political motivation,” Bouck said.
Camille Sasinowski, president of the Goose Hill Neighborhood Association, said the plan for the memorial is to have a pole waving the American flag while being illuminated so it could be up 24 hours a day. She also said there is plan to install a plaque with the names of military veterans from Goose Hill.
The 8-foot, 4-inch replica statue was erected in 1950 by a local Boy Scout troop from Goose Hill. It was part of a nationwide program to build Lady Liberty replicas in their towns.
Because of where the troop was from, several Goose Hill residents argued the bring the statue to Steinmetz Park.
Kristen Holler, who spoke at Monday’s meeting with her two sons, said she and her kids go to the park all of the time. She asked for the statue to come to the park.
“Lady Liberty will have a great home,” Holler said.
But others wanted the statue to be back in Gateway Plaza, where anyone coming through the city could see it.
“I believe Lady Liberty is for everyone, not just for Goose Hill and and people up there,” said resident Mary Ann Ruscitto, adding there shouldn’t be just one neighborhood with a say.
The replica statue was removed from the park because of the reconstruction of the park on State Street. It is currently being stored in the city garage on Foster Avenue.
There is a chance it will be featured in Steinmetz Park, according to Mayor Gary McCarthy, but he said a final decision on the statue’s location has not been made.
“I’ll work on finding Lady Liberty a home that will make people semi-happy,” McCarthy said during Monday’s meeting.
Stockade neighborhood resident David Giacalone, though, believes it should be returned to its original location in Liberty Park. He said the original concept called for the statute to be in Liberty Park.
Riggi said he heard from a city department head that the statue would be returned to Liberty Park after construction was complete.
“If [the city] had said the park was not getting its statue back, there would have been an uproar,” Giacolone said. “There was never the slightest hint she [Lady Liberty] would not come back.”
Mary Moore Wallinger, principal of LAndArt Studio, said her firm was in charge of designing the construction documents. She said the design stayed true to what the 2012 Gateway Plaza Implementation Plan called for, but it did have some changes.
One of those changes included where the statue would be located. Wallinger said after going through the design plans, the statue just “didn’t seem to fit anymore” at Gateway Plaza.
“It seemed to everyone it would be better served in a more meaningful and appropriate location for it,” Wallinger said. “That’s what the city is doing now.”
Sasinowski also mentioned the proximity of the statue to Yates Elementary School on Salina Street. She said the school has a decent sized immigrant population and said it would be fitting for students to have the statue in that park to learn from.
Robert Flanders, principal at Yates, agreed as he spoke on behalf of the student council on Monday.
“They enjoy the parks, the trail, the pavilion, they maintain the garden up there and the planned memorial would be very important to all the students at Yates,” Flanders said.