SCHENECTADY — The City Council on Monday is poised to pass a resolution calling on Mayor Gary McCarthy to relocate a replica Statue of Liberty back to its original home at Gateway Plaza Park.
The 8½-foot statue has stood at the intersection of Erie Boulevard and Union Street since 2019, much to the chagrin of a small, but vocal, group of residents who have fought to return the statue to its original Liberty Park home, where it was erected in 1950 by a group of local Boy Scouts, who raised money to build the replica statue as part of a nationwide campaign.
In 2017, the statue was removed from Liberty Park as part of a park renovation project. Many believed the statue itself would undergo renovations and be returned to the park — now known as Gateway Plaza — following construction, but the statue reemerged two years later at its current location.
The Gateway Plaza Implementation Plan, approved by the city in 2013, called for the statue to be relocated near a CDTA bus line in the park, “as the scale is better suited to this area and the statue would be more visible from the roadway.”
McCarthy, who was largely responsible for the statue’s relocation, has said the “primary function” of the Lady Liberty statue at its former home was to be “urinated on,” adding that the statue is now in an area with high visibility that will eventually be lined with a number of other statues.
“Nobody paid any attention to it, nobody knew it was there for a long time,” he told The Gazette last month. “Now we’ve got people out talking about it all the time, so I think, because of the move, it’s been a success.”
But the statue’s current location near a rail bridge has upset some, including members of the City Council, who last week agreed to draft a resolution calling for the statue to be relocated back to the park.
“This has been a tough time for this poor little statue,” said Councilwoman Karen Zalewski-Wildzunas. “She needs to go back to the park and I know if we could get support here, I’m hoping that we can hopefully get it moved back over there.”
Still, members acknowledged that passing the resolution may not have an effect on whether the statue gets relocated.
John Polimeni, the council’s majority leader, said McCarthy still has influence over where the statue would ultimately stand. The resolution would simply reflect the council’s opinion, he said.
“Whatever the mayor does, the mayor does,” he said.
Polimeni suggested a statue pertaining to the Erie Canal would be better suited at the location where the replica Lady Liberty now stands.
Elsewhere, Councilwoman Carmel Patrick said she has “felt passionately” about the Statue of Liberty for a couple of years and believes the replica holds a significant meaning in a city made up of immigrants.
She said Gateway Plaza is a deserving location for the statue.
“I hear the argument sometimes that the park is now supposed to be a place of public contemporary art, but I do want to suggest that we don’t want to throw away history as we continue to move forward with progress,” Patrick said. “I think that, again, having Lady Liberty there with, for example, the pride sculpture — which represents freedom for a whole other group of individuals in our country that worked hard to earn their rights — I just think it’s a very, very appropriate setting for the Statue of Liberty.”