August 22, Staff Report
A ribbon-cutting ceremony was held today for the newly-restored “Women’s Plaza in Queens”, a public space dedicated to the women of the borough that is located at the northeast corner of Union Turnpike and Queens Boulevard by Borough Hall.
“Queens has been home to so many incredible, trail-blazing women across all industries, from business to politics, sports to entertainment,” said Borough President Melinda Katz at the ceremony, adding that it’s “a meaningful tribute to all the women of Queens who have made a lasting positive impact in New York City and around the globe.”
The plaza was the former home of the 17 foot tall statue “Triumph of Civic Virtue,” which depicted a male nude figure standing on top of two female figures representing vice and virtue. The statue was designed by artist Frederick MacMonnies in 1922, two years after women received the right to vote.
The statue has been decried as misogynistic ever since.
The statue originally stood in front of New York City Hall, but in 1941 it was moved to the new Borough Hall in Kew Gardens in part because then-Mayor Fiorello H. La Guardia disliked it. He called the statue “fat boy” and said that he did not like to be greeted by the statue’s bare rear end when leaving city hall each day
In Queens, the statue continued to attract controversy. In 1972, the National Organization of Women led a protest for its removal. Claire Shulman, Queen’s first female borough president, called for its removal in 1987.
“A municipal building is not an appropriate place for a statue that portrays women as evil and treacherous,” Shulman said at the time
Former Borough President Helen Marshall chose not to invest in the statue’s upkeep. She was the first to propose the Women’s Plaza.
On December 15, 2012, the statue was moved to Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn, where several of MacMonnies’ family members are interred.
Mayor Bill de Blasio and Borough President Melinda Katz funded a $960,000 project to repurpose and restore the area. The project repaired the stonework, improved the landscaping, and added lighting and benches. The centerpiece of the restoration was symbolic— the installation of a plaque dedicating the plaza to the women of Queens.
“I congratulate and thank Borough President Katz for creating a beautiful space at Borough Hall where people can relax and women will now be celebrated rather than denigrated,” Shulman said today.