The New York City Public Design Commission voted unanimously to remove a statue of Thomas Jefferson from the New York City Council chambers at City Hall. Thomas Jefferson is the author of the Declaration of Independence and the third President of the United States.
The commission deliberated on a plan to loan the 187-year-old statue, which has been housed inside City Hall since 1833, to the New York Historical Society in order “to protect the artwork and provide opportunities to exhibit it within an educational and historical context.”
Despite this, Commission President Signe Nielsen was opposed to the plan because the society is a private institution with a $22 admission fee. The future of the statue is unknown.
Nonetheless, the commission voted unanimously to remove the Declaration of Independence’s author from its legislative chamber by the end of the year, The New York Post reported.
“We acknowledge that the piece needs to be removed from the City Council chamber,” Nielsen said after the vote. “We as a commission will act before the end of 2021 in finding an appropriate location where it remains in the public realm.”
The Black, Latino, and Asian Caucus of the City Council has long objected to the statue’s presence because Jefferson owned slaves. The fight to remove the statue was led by Assembly Member Charles Barron and his wife, City Council Member Inez Barron.
Mayor Bill de Blasio tasked his wife, first lady Chirlane McCray, as chair of the Commission on Racial Justice and Reconciliation, with deciding the fate of the sculpture.
“There’s so much about Thomas Jefferson and his own personal writings, memoirs about how he treated his slaves, his family members and things of that nature and how he perceived African Americans and slaves — that they lacked intelligence, that they were not to assimilate into society,” Miller told The New York Post.
“For us to really highlight such an individual is really not who we are as a council,” Miller said.
The movement to remove public monuments began with calls to remove Confederate monuments. However, as activists began to target America’s founders, the movement grew. During the summer of 2020 riots, vandals spray-painted “1619” on a toppled statue of George Washington, a clear reference to The New York Times’ 1619 Project.