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Foss: Time for clarity on Schenectady’s Lady Liberty

Foss: Time for clarity on Schenectady’s Lady Liberty

Foss: Time for clarity on Schenectady’s Lady Liberty
Schenectady Park Supervisor Jim Kochan moves the copper Statue of Liberty in storage in this file photo.
Photographer: Marc Schultz

On a trip to Paris two years ago, my husband and I spent the better part of a morning looking for a Statue of Liberty replica that sits on a small artificial island in the river Seine. 

The replica isn't as big or grand as the Statue of Liberty, but it was still nice to see, and to realize that this iconic American symbol is meaningful to people from all over the world. 

Schenectady has its own little Statue of Liberty -- an 8 1/2 foot tall replica made of sheet copper and weighing about 290 pounds. 

It's a neat little attraction with an interesting history, which I'll get to in a moment -- the kind of thing that enriches a community and instills a certain kind of civic pride. 

Good luck trying to find it, though. 

The statue was removed from its longtime home in Liberty Park in late 2017, stashed in a garage on Foster Avenue and hasn't been seen by the public since

Why the statue remains hidden away a year and a half later is something of a mystery. 

So is the lack of a formal plan for the statue -- something Mayor Gary McCarthy implied was forthcoming in an interview with The Daily Gazette shortly after the statue was taken down. 

"Potential sites are being evaluated, and I'm sure we'll find a place for it soon," McCarthy told The Gazette. "One scenario has it back in Liberty Park, and other possibilities might be near the police station, the train station or somewhere along Erie Boulevard." 

Now, it's possible the mayor and I have different definitions of the word soon. 

But it's long past time for McCarthy to open up about Lady Liberty's future, and bring the murkiness surrounding the statue's status to an end. 

Indeed, I thought the mayor was planning to enlighten us as to the city's Lady Liberty plans, having told Gazette reporter Pete DeMola that "by July 4, you'll find out where [the statue] is going to go." 

But July 4 came and went without a Lady Liberty announcement, angering Schenectady residents who care about the statue and believe it belongs in public. They're right to be angry, and to feel insulted by the mayor's unnecessary evasiveness. 

A lot of people want Lady Liberty returned to Liberty Park, now known as Gateway Plaza, and Gateway Plaza would be a fine place for the statue. But I'm not wedded to any particular site, and there are a number of other places that might be suitable, such as Veterans Park. 

What mystifies me most of all about this situation is the city's seeming lack of enthusiasm for its Statue of Liberty replica. 

This replica is something to celebrate -- to appreciate and take pride in.  

It was erected in 1950 by a Schenectady Boy Scout troop, as part of a broader campaign, called Strengthen the Arm of Liberty, that encouraged Boy Scouts throughout America to observe the organization's 40th anniversary by installing Statue of Liberty replicas in their communities. 

About 200 replicas were erected, but it isn't clear how many remain. 

A spokeswoman for the Boy Scouts told me she was not able to "determine how many of these statues still exist," while a 2016 article in the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle said that "the years took their toll on many, and about half are now unaccounted for." 

That D&C article described a successful effort to restore the Lady Liberty replica in the Genesee County town of Le Roy.  

"With its face partly battered and its stone base seriously deteriorating, the copper replica could have faded into oblivion, reaching a point where its damages were so severe that it had to be removed," the article stated. Instead, the Le Roy Historical Society spearheaded a fundraising effort that raised $15,000, and the statue has since been "revived to her former glory." 

Last week City Engineer Chris Wallin said that the city's statue was in the "same condition or better than it was before." But in the very same article, City Council President Ed Kosiur told The Gazette that it was his understanding that Lady Liberty's base had incurred some damage. 

Whether a damaged base explains why the Lady Liberty saga has dragged on for so long, I don't know. 

What I do know is that residents have waited long enough for answers to their Lady Liberty questions. 

This statue doesn't belong in a garage -- it belongs in a city park, for all to enjoy. 

The sooner it's given a new home, or returned to its old home, the better. 

Reach Sara Foss at [email protected]. Opinions expressed here are her own and not necessarily the newspaper's.

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