LOWER MANHATTAN — Construction for a monument honoring essential workers was expected to begin in Battery Park City on Monday, but a group of New Yorkers gathered to speak out against the project.
Workers were set to rip up trees in the section of the park where the monument will go up, however, photos show several protesters disrupted the construction.
The protesters said the park space was vital during the pandemic — and still is — especially for the city’s children. They also said Gov. Andrew Cuomo gave the project the green light without any public meetings or hearings.
They’ve asked the governor to pause the work and rethink a way to honor essential workers without sacrificing the limited greenspace left in Manhattan.
Dozens of residents also rallied against the monument over the weekend. One protester told PIX11 News they want to honor front-line heroes, but in a way that doesn’t infringe on existing greenspace.
“We want to make sure we honor our heroes the right way. There wasn’t a conversation that led up to this moment. Now we have all this construction equipment and chainsaws coming to cut down these trees,” he said.
New York Assemblywoman Yuh-Line Niou, who represents the neighborhood, appeared to side with the protesters on Monday.
“Governor, everyone wants to honor our essential workers that kept us safe during this pandemic. This could be in hazard pay or in raised wages or in putting their safety first in our regulations. A tribute for their service is nice too, but it should be with community input,” she tweeted.
Meanwhile, an online petition calling on the state to move the location of the monument garnered over 3,400 signatures.
Cuomo announced the Circle of Heroes Monument to Essential Workers last week and released renderings of what it would look like. The location of the monument will also be renamed “Essential Workers’ Park.”
The monument will consist of a circular display of 19 maple trees, representing 19 groups of essential workers, according to the governor.
An eternal flame will sit at the center of the circle, paying homage to the memory of those who gave their lives to protect and serve New Yorkers during the pandemic.
Cuomo had said the location of the monument was chosen by a commission of labor leaders representing essential workers from various industries.
According to the governor’s office, the exact location of the monument was moved to a corner of the park based on community feedback and will take up about 2% of the current lawn space.
Jordan Bennett, a spokesperson for the governor’s office, said the state plans to move forward with the project.
“We’re proud to be planting 19 trees for a life-affirming monument in a destination park made for all New Yorkers to enjoy, in the shadow of the symbol of New York’s resilience and openness. This location was chosen in an open process by 23 leaders representing hundreds of thousands of essential workers, and the site design allows for people to continue to enjoy the park space,” Bennett told PIX11 News in an emailed statement on Monday. “We look forward to working with everyone who uses this public space and to seeing generations of New Yorkers from across the state enjoy and celebrate this monument.”
The monument is expected to open on Labor Day.