Following outcry from Battery Park City residents, Gov. Andrew Cuomo has backed off a plan to take green space from a beloved local park for a coronavirus memorial honoring essential workers.
Battery Park City Authority chairman George Tsunis, a Cuomo appointee who doesn’t reside in the lower Manhattan community, told residents the governor agreed to relocate the “Circle of Heroes” memorial out of Rockefeller Park, a giant lawn where neighborhood kids play.
“This site is going to change. It’s going to be a new site. It’s off the table,” Tsunis during a discussion with Battery Park City residents in Rockefeller Park on Thursday, which was posted on Instagram.
The residents around him applauded.
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Tsunis said state officials thought the park was a good location — until the backlash from residents. The task force the governor created to study sites for a workers’ memorial was comprised solely of union leaders, not local residents.
“When additional facts were brought to [our] attention, it’s good to analyze those and pivot, which is what we did,” Tsunis said..
He later added, “You have my apologies.”
Tsunis said Cuomo agreed that green space should not be taken from residents.
“We are one mind, and everyone else is of one mind. Not only do I understand. I over-stand,” he said.
“We will not come in the middle of the night and we’re not trying to pull a fast one.”
Tsunis said the governor is “pushing me” to find another location for the memorial so it can be erected by Labor Day weekend.
He said the new location will be in a more “commercial area” and “nowhere near where kids play.” He did not rule out that the Essential Workers Memorial will be located elsewhere in Battery Park City, which is state-owned property.
A Cuomo spokesman said the memorial will be located elsewhere in Battery Park City.
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The memorial will feature an eternal flame along with 19 red maple trees, symbolizing the 19 types of essential workers who kept the city afloat during the darkest days of the pandemic.
Construction workers had already placed machinery in the park to begin work on the memorial before irate residents rebelled.
COVID-19 has killed more than 50,000 New Yorkers, including many essential workers.
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