SCHENECTADY — Lady Liberty’s torch is held high again.
Quietly, and with no fanfare, the miniature replica of the Statue of Liberty materialized Wednesday morning at the corner of Erie Boulevard and Union Street, complete with a block base and newly planted grass.
The statue was removed from Liberty Park, now known as Gateway Plaza, in 2017 during redesign efforts there.
Mayor Gary McCarthy originally flagged July 4 as when he would reveal the statue’s fate, which has been shrouded in mystery after it was whisked away to a storage garage on Foster Avenue.
“While the statue may not have been reinstalled as quickly as I had hoped, I am glad it was completed safely and properly so that this symbol may be part of our community once again,” McCarthy said in a news release.
The intersection, which serves as the main gateway to the Stockade Historic District, generates 30,000 travelers daily.
The statue was originally installed in 1950 by the Boy Scouts as part of a nationwide program to erect Statue of Liberty replicas in their communities.
The saga hasn’t been without controversy.
The City Council adopted an implementation plan in 2013 that deemed that the statue would return to the park once renovation efforts were complete.
But officials changed course and opted to select a new location, which was kept under wraps until the statue was installed on Wednesday.
City resident David Giacalone called Lady Liberty’s new home a “chin flip” from McCarthy and Gateway Plaza project designer Mary Wallinger and floated the idea of filing a lawsuit against the city for scrapping the implementation plan.
“Not a good resolution of a self-made controversy,” he said, contending the decision illustrated a lapse in government integrity.
Furthermore, he said, Erie Boulevard and Union Street is a difficult intersection for vehicles and pedestrians, and the statue should have been cleaned, noting the city of Utica spent $10,000 to restore their replica.
Wallinger and McCarthy didn’t return phone calls seeking comment.
Councilman Vince Riggi criticized the mayor for cherry-picking when he solicits public feedback and when he does not.
“Somehow he usurped the power to solely make this decision, even though not one person ever spoke to how they would like to have it placed in this location and many other suitable spots were mentioned by them,” Riggi said.
Goose Hill, Yates Elementary School, Steinmetz Park and Gateway Plaza had all been suggested by residents as possible locations.
Riggi also said he was misled by the implementation plan passed by the City Council.
“Pathetic is the right word,” Riggi said.
But not everyone was critical.
Councilwoman Karen Zalewski-Wildzunas said she liked the location, citing its proximity to the Schenectady Train Station and the Stockade, and thinks most residents will find it to be an acceptable location.
“I think it’s in a good spot,” she said. “It’s a good solution.”
Dale May wrote on Facebook: “Well done. One of the most heavily traveled areas in the city. Great everyday visibility to residents and visitors alike vs. being stuck away in a park visited/viewed by few.”
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