What once stood on top of the fountain was a statue by sculptor Fredrick William MacMonnies called “Civic Virtue Triumphant over Unrighteousness.”
The statue was unveiled at City Hall in 1922 at a cost of $60,000 in taxpayer money. It depicted a nude man personifying civic virtue triumphantly standing over the twin sirens of “vice” and “corruption.”
Some people had a different interpretation of the art work. It was later moved to Queens Borough Hall in 1941, and remained there unkempt for 71 years.
Then in 2012, the city decided to secretly move the statue from public view to private property. The benefactor was the Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn.
What should bother most people is the lack of a public forum in its removal. We are currently in a time period where certain individuals or groups of people believe they have the right to re-interpret an artist’s meaning in his work and therefore apply 21st century attitudes.
I recall not too long ago when city funds were used to present art work depicting a crucifix in a jar of urine. Back then, the radical liberals defended the artwork and chastised the critics for imposing their narrow minded viewpoints of an artist’s own interpretation.
How far have we come in reversing these roles?
The rightful place for Civic Virtue is back at City Hall Park to remind all elected officials, particularly the current administration, that they cannot run a Tammany Hall administration or act like a Boss Tweed.
William K. Kregler is a Republican candidate for Queens borough president.