City whisks off ‘Civic Virtue’ to Green-Wood

Workers prepare to move "Civic Virtue" out of Queens and into Brooklyn over the weekend. Photo by Phil Corso
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A towering Borough Hall statue was quietly loaded onto a truck by workers and carefully moved to its final resting place Saturday.

“Triumph of Civic Virtue,” a controversial Queens icon unloved by some city lawmakers, was removed from its base and shipped off to Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn after advocates failed to keep the monolith from leaving.

The city authorized the removal of the divisive statue from outside Queens Borough Hall during a meeting of the city Public Design Commission Nov. 13, just days after Superstorm Sandy hit.

“It was designed so no one would know about it,” City Councilman Peter Vallone Jr. (D-Astoria) said at a rally earlier this month in Kew Gardens to save the statue.

Vallone said the Design Commission informed elected officials and community boards of the meeting to discuss moving the statue with a “generic, citywide email sent one week after [Hurricane Sandy] when City Council and many other e-mails were still not working.”

The statue has stood at Borough Hall since 1941, when Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia, reportedly tired of looking at its rear end, moved it from City Hall. Criticism of the statue continued as former Borough President Claire Shulman tried to get it moved and former U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner called the statue “offensive” to women — prior to his sexting scandal.

The sculpture depicts a sword-wielding, fig-leaf wearing male figure poised victoriously over two mermaid-like Sirens representing vice and corruption. The work was designed in 1920 by Frederick MacMonnies and carved by a pair of Bronx brothers best known for recreating the 16th president’s likeness for the Lincoln Memorial.

A spokesman for Borough President Helen Marshall said the statue would be properly restored at its new home, while the space it once graced will likely be used to pay tribute to outstanding women who have made significant contributions to the borough and city.

But Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley (D-Middle Village) said the city should have allowed for public comment from the community before shipping the statue to its new Brooklyn home.

“Moving public art into a private space with virtually no public input from the community is simply unacceptab­le,” said Crowley. “The artist’s work is recognized in museums around the world, and I believe the only acceptable place to move ‘Civic Virtue,’ if it has to be moved, is the Queens Museum of Art.”

Reach reporter Steve Mosco by e-mail at or by phone at 718-260-4546.

Updated 8:07 pm, December 19, 2012
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Reader feedback

Kenneth Kowald from No Holds Barred says:
The deed has been done, opposition to it notwithstanding. Now let us see if the fountain will be restored by this Borough President or the next one.
And, please, let us have a process which cannot be objected to. Transparency and open government are, supposedly, the hallmarks of the day. Certainly there is some question here about the process.
But, at last, Civic Virtue has found a resting place.
Kenneth Kowald
Dec. 19, 2012, 10:31 am

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