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OpinionColumnistsMichael Dobie

NY’s link to Gen. Robert E. Lee statue

The statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee

The statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee in Charlottesville, Va. (AP Photo/Steve Helber) Credit: AP / Steve Helber

The statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee, whose proposed removal was at the root of the bloody protests in Charlottesville, Virginia, has a New York connection.

It was commissioned in 1917 by Charlottesville-born philanthropist Paul Goodloe McIntire, then living and working as a stockbroker in New York.

McIntire hired lifelong New Yorker Henry Shrady to execute the sculpture. Shrady is better known for his memorial in Washington honoring Lee’s Union Army counterpart, Ulysses S. Grant. But New Yorkers are more familiar with another Shrady work — the statue of George Washington that stands in Continental Army Plaza at the foot of the Williamsburg Bridge in Brooklyn.

But Shrady died before he could complete the Lee statue. It was finished by Leo Lentelli, an Italian immigrant who had settled in Brooklyn, and it was cast at the Roman Bronze Works in Brooklyn.

Lentelli is known for the bas-reliefs representing four continents on the International Building at Rockefeller Center and his statue of Apollo in a window of Steinway Hall.

But thousands of Long Islanders have a deeper connection to his work, even if they don’t know its creator was the man who finished the contentious statue of Lee.

Lentelli is all over the Oyster Bay Post Office — the terracotta panels that sit above the interior doorways, the bust of Theodore Roosevelt, and the stone flagpole base outside with its carvings of seahorses.

And no one has yet called for their removal.

Michael Dobie is a member of Newsday’s editorial board.