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Reconsidering controversial statues

A statue of Robert Moses on June 18,

A statue of Robert Moses on June 18, 2020 in Babylon, New York. Credit: Getty Images/Bruce Bennett

The rush to tear down statues of leaders of our country is misguided [“Museum’s Roosevelt statue to be removed,” News, June 22]. Were these men perfect? No, they were flawed as we all are, but that doesn’t diminish their contributions to our nation. They were products of their times. All lives matter, but removing these statues is a case of Monday morning quarterbacking.

Bob Veeck,

Brookhaven

With protesters demanding that the Robert Moses statue by Babylon Village Hall be removed, I must wonder whether these people next will demand that the face of George Washington be removed from the $1 bill, and the face of Thomas Jefferson from the $2 bill [“Protesters want Moses statue out,” News, June 21]. Of course, these protesters also could be burning $1 and $2 bills in protest, but I somehow don’t see that as a viable option.

Thomas Smith,

Jamesport

After I arrived on Long Island, I was in awe of the beautiful beaches — public beaches. If this were Cape Cod, the beaches would be private property with limited or no access for the public. Thank you Robert Moses. Oh, and then there is Belmont State Park. Again, thanks to Moses. He was a successful developer because he knew that the “devil is in the details.”’ He left a legacy the public can enjoy forever. It would be an insult to destroy his statue.

Nary McCaffery,

Farmingdale

While we need to change the way things are, I think we should not be taking down all our historic statues [“Protesters wants Moses statue out,” News, June 21]. They serve a dual purpose. They recognize the people’s accomplishments but also remind us of what they were. Erasing our history will only make it easier for it to happen again. It is bad enough that many teachers no longer teach all the tragic events of World War II and other events that, I believe, we should never forget. We are headed down a dangerous road.

Karl Wilhelm,

West Babylon

As a Suffolk County Legislature staffer in 2003, I was a part of the effort to erect the Robert Moses statue in Babylon Village. I now believe it should come down.

Moses’ legacy is complex. Some of his initiatives, like the development of our seashore, parks and roadways, bring a great deal of pride to Long Islanders. But something that few, if any, of us were taught in school is that this infrastructure may have been built with the intent to undermine and isolate communities of color. Moses reportedly designed structures to prevent city buses, and therefore Black and brown people from accessing Long Island parks. He also exercised questionable use of eminent domain for highway projects, causing low- and middle-income people to lose their homes and land, while avoiding doing the same to wealthier communities.

A monument that brings pain to any of my fellow Long Islanders should not be glorified in a village square. The statue would better serve the public in a museum, where visitors can learn of the questionable intentions of this polarizing public figure alongside his successful projects to build our state’s infrastructure.

I regret that at the time the statue was erected I did not learn more about Moses’ legacy or how this project could cause harm. Learning about and surfacing roots of racism to correct mistakes is work we are all called to do.

Erin Cohan,

Washington

Editor’s note: The writer is chief of staff and vice president at Center for American Progress in Washington, D.C.

Although I’m a Democrat and a firm believer in equality, as I watch the removal of statues from streets across the nation, the art history student in me weeps [“Museum’s Roosevelt to be removed,” News, June 22]. While it’s understandable that many of these statues depict men with a troubling history, it’s also important to remember they’re works of art. Thomas Jefferson was a founding father and wrote the Declaration of Independence. Yet, his statue is being removed. The American Museum of Natural History is removing a statue of Theodore Roosevelt, a building his father helped found. There’s also a statue of Teddy seated in the main hall. I’m concerned about its future.

There are countless works in museums and cities across the world depicting people of questionable backgrounds. Many probably would take issue with other exhibits as well. Are we going to take them all down? That would be a shame. Museums are places that give us a look into our past. They, and the art they house, make the viewer think and question. To take away this right to reveal and discover would be a grave mistake. I hope we rethink it.

Elizabeth Aquino,

Amityville

It appears that all those responsible in approving the design of Theodore Roosevelt’s statue in front of the American Museum of Natural History must have been racists and knew precisely how to convey their mindset — through this form of art [“Museum’s Roosevelt to be removed,” News, June 22].

Mayor Bill de Blasio and the museum’s hierarchy were astute in recognizing it. Instead of removing the statue, why not just remove the Native American and the African American, leaving our beloved president on his horse? End of problem. Then if Roosevelt falls out of favor, take him away, and we would be left with a beautiful statue of a horse. Who could object to that?

Avey Shaw,

Huntington Station

Kudos to Nassau County Executive Laura Curran to be steadfast in keeping the statue of Theodore Roosevelt outside the county headquarters building in Mineola [“Curran: Roosevelt statue to remain,” Newsday, June 23]. Curran’s statement that the statue will “stay right where it is” is most refreshing as an antidote to the “pandemic” of statue removals, and vandalism which proliferate this country.”

Stanley L. Ronell,

Great Neck

What is accomplished by tearing down a statue [“Retiring old ideas, making changes,” Letters, June 22]? You cannot rewrite history, therefore all it amounts to is vandalism. It’s senseless and childish.

Tom Santoro,

Holbrook

History is an important part of our heritage. Haste to remove statues at the outcry of the public might not be the answer [“Retiring old ideas, making changes,” Letters, June 22]. A statue teaches history and how we have evolved to the present. It is not a statue that teaches racism. The statue should encourage you to be something better. Actually, we learn racism and prejudices from other people and the examples they set.

It is sad that our leaders jump to remove statues. That is not where hatred is. Hatred and prejudices are in our everyday lives. Until now, many people never even saw these statues. Like artwork, statues have different meanings to each individual. If you want to see racism, you will see it. Let us learn, from history, not to repeat slavery or abuse of power and move ahead to a better tomorrow.

Keep the statues. They are artwork to learn from.

Julie L. Newman,

West Babylon

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