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Schenectady's Lady Liberty saga drags on, some say unnecessarily

Schenectady's Lady Liberty saga drags on, some say unnecessarily

Deadline comes and goes for relocation plans
Schenectady's Lady Liberty saga drags on, some say unnecessarily
Schenectady Park Supervisor Jim Kochan moves the copper Statue of Liberty in storage in this file photo.
Photographer: Marc Schultz

SCHENECTADY —  With July 4 come and gone, the mayor has missed his self-imposed deadline for when an announcement would be made regarding a new home for Lady Liberty.

McCarthy on Wednesday said he has selected a final location for the replica of the Statue of Liberty and has developed a site plan. 

But he said he was awaiting engineering materials from city Engineer Chris Wallin before making an announcement and directed questions to him.

Wallin said he didn’t have an update.

“It’s not my decision to make," Wallin said, steering questions back to McCarthy. 

The back-and-forth marks the latest twist in the two-year saga over the statue’s fate since it was removed in 2017 as part of improvements to Liberty Park (now known as Gateway Plaza) and transferred to a storage facility on Foster Avenue.

City resident David Giacalone has kept a spotlight on the issue and has been critical of the city and the design firm that oversaw the park renovations. 

An implementation plan adopted by the City Council in 2013 deemed that the statue would return to the park, he said. But officials have since backtracked and offered shifting narratives regarding where the statue should go.

Giacalone criticized the City Council last week for not being more assertive in sticking to the plan and said the drift “shows a disrespect for good government and the people and reckless disregard for their own reputations and credibility.” 

Council members have generally been silent on the relocation mystery, which has continued to bubble at a low-grade underneath the surface of city affairs. 

Most lawmakers acknowledged it was a mayoral decision, but do not agree with how the situation has unfolded. 

“The city hasn’t handled it very well,” said Councilman John Polimeni. 

Karen Zalewski-Wildzunas said the same thing: “It just wasn’t handled very well." 

Councilwoman Marion Porterfield said noted the implementation plan called for the statue to be returned to its original home. 

“It’s an ongoing saga, but really shouldn’t be,” she said. “If the plan is going to change, it should come before the [City] Council."

Goose Hill, Yates Elementary School, Steinmetz Park and Gateway Plaza have all been suggested by residents as possible locations for the statue.

“Personally, as in most situations, I believe it is important to listen to the voice of the public,” said Councilwoman Leesa Perazzo.

“But of late, I’ve only really heard from a core group who want it in Gateway Plaza,” Perazzo said. “The consensus seems to be quite vocal around returning Lady Liberty from whence she came.”

But, she added: “It might be interesting to have another public hearing.”

Councilman Vince Riggi has long said the statue should be returned to Gateway Plaza.

Asked if he approved of how the city has handled the situation, “No, not at all.” 

“[McCarthy] said he’d make an announcement by July 4,” Riggi said. “Maybe he didn’t say what year.”

City Council President Ed Kosiur said it’s McCarthy’s call.

“A decision should be made one way or the other,” he said.

Kosiur said he understood the base of the statue has incurred some damage. 

“We should be getting some estimates and costs of what takes to restore the base and bring it to a proper site,” he said. 

Wallin on Thursday said the statue itself is undamaged, calling it the “same condition or better than it was before.”

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