Realizing one of Mayor Bill de Blasio's last major moves as NYC mayor, a nearly 200-year-old statue of founding father and third president Thomas Jefferson has finally been removed from the "Room Where It Happens" in NYC's City Hall.
After spending 187 years in city hall, the 884-pound statue of the Declaration of Independence author was quietly packed into a crate Monday by art handlers from a private firm and ushered out the back door. Video of the statue's departure was taken by the NY Post despite City Hall's intense opposition. The 1833 statue will be on a long-term loan to the New York Historical Society, which plans to have Jefferson's model survive in its lobby and reading room, for an indefinite period.
Previously, the statue had stood for nearly 200 years in the city council's chambers, commonly referred to as "the Room Where it Happens".
Keri Butler, executive director of the Public Design Commission, which voted to banish the statue last month, initially tried to block the press from witnessing its removal. But Butler relented after members of the mayor’s office and City Council intervened. Last month, Butler and nearly a dozen de Blasio-appointed bureaucrats from the PDC voted to remove the "racist" statue from city hall, and "loan" it to the city's historical society.
But not before several lawmakers testified that the statue was "offensive," with Democratic Assemblyman Charles Barron of Brooklyn even denouncing Jefferson as a "slaveholding pedophile."
The decision to remove the statue seemed to fulfill President Trump's warning that removing statues of Confederate Generals like Robert E Lee would be followed by the removal of "slave holders" like Jefferson and even George Washington himself.
Of course, simply removing a statue from City Hall doesn't mean New Yorkers will suddenly "forget" what Thomas Jefferson is and what he stood for, as one academic explained. The academic, Erin Thompson - a professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, and author of a book called "Smashing Statues" - claims that removing a monument without a public conversation about why it’s happening is "useless."
She added that New Yorkers all need to talk about "who we want to honor and why,” Thompson added.
"Moving this statue doesn’t mean New Yorkers will forget who Thomas Jefferson was - but some of them might learn from the controversy that the man who wrote 'all men are created equal' owned over 600 of his fellow humans," Thompson said.
Minority leader Joe Borelli, a Republican from Staten Island, called the move an attempt to "sideline history" while Black, Latino and Asian Caucus co-chair I Daneek Miller (a Democrat from Queens) said he wanted the statue gone because it "doesn't represent contemporary values".
Meanwhile, a replica of the statue by sculptor Pierre-Jean David is still on display in the Capitol Rotunda in Washington, DC.
For more on the decision, check out this video from a local NBC affiliate: