SCHENECTADY — An end may be in sight over the fate of a replica of the Statue of Liberty that once welcomed visitors to The Electric City.
For the past two years, the removal of “Lady Liberty” from Gateway Plaza has served as a flashpoint, with tension flaring up periodically between a small group of residents and city officials over its fate.
Now the mayor is teasing a decision may come down within weeks regarding its new home.
“I think by July 4, you’ll find out where it’s going to go,” said Mayor Gary McCarthy.
The 8 ½ foot tall statue was erected in 1950 by local Boy Scouts as part of a nationwide program. It was removed in 2017 as part of improvements to Liberty Park (now known as Gateway Plaza) at the corner of State Street and Washington Avenue, which was overgrown and neglected.
The park has been spruced up in an effort to better incorporate SUNY Schenectady with downtown.
But Lady Liberty was spirited away to a city garage on Foster Avenue, where she remains.
Since then, residents have jockeyed over where the statue should be relocated: Goose Hill, Yates Elementary School and Steinmetz Park have all been suggested as possible locations.
But McCarthy has been tight-lipped over its fate.
Stockade neighborhood resident David Giacalone has advocated for its return to its original location.
Giacalone has been critical of McCarthy and Mary Moore Wallinger, principal of the design firm that oversaw the park renovations, contending the implementation plan adopted by the City Council in 2013 sealed that the statue would return to the park, and officials have since stalled and offered shifting narratives regarding its reinstatement.
He organized a small protest last week and another, he said, is forthcoming.
Meanwhile, he’s been excoriating city officials at a rapid clip, efforts that have only intensified following completion of the restoration efforts.
“There is no reason that the city cannot make a well-designed niche for Lady Liberty that will enhance, rather than detract, from the modern image of Gateway/Liberty Plaza,” Giacalone said. “Put the Lady back where she always stood using the central sculpture area and saving the expense of buying new sculpture for that spot.”
McCarthy dismissed Giacalone’s criticisms and said the outspoken activist usually lands on the wrong side of every city issue.
“If he’s going one way, I know I’m going the right way,” McCarthy said. “He’s always against everything.”
Wallinger has acknowledged the plan and the final location for Lady Liberty has been modified over time.
After going through the design plans, the statue just “didn’t seem to fit anymore” at Gateway Plaza, she said last March.
“Ultimately, the decision is not mine,” Wallinger said last week. “It’s up to the mayor to decide where it will go.”
Officials concede the statue does require some restoration work, but the details are unclear: McCarthy said he hasn’t seen the engineering report documenting its condition, and city Engineer Chris Wallin didn’t respond to questions seeking to determine the costs and extent of damage.
But despite the back-and-forth, the two years of ambiguity will soon be over, with Lady Liberty’s torch poised to again welcome the Electric City’s “tired, poor, huddled masses yearning to breathe free” — even if the exact destination remains shrouded in mystery.
McCarthy said the location has been designed with permanence in mind.
“When we do it, we want to make sure the statute is there for the next 50 years,” McCarthy said.
Correction, 2:35 p.m. Monday: An earlier version of this article incorrectly identified the street upon which the city garage is located. It is Foster Avenue.