EAST HARLEM, Manhattan (PIX11) — Assemblymember Eddie Gibbs believes it’s time to remove Thomas Jefferson’s name from a popular park, recreational center and NYCHA development in East Harlem.
“Should our kids wake up every day and see Thomas Jefferson’s name?” Gibbs asked during an interview with PIX11 News.
A founding father and author of the Declaration of Independence, former President Jefferson owned hundreds of enslaved persons.
“This is not a hero,” Gibbs believes.
After collecting signatures on a local petition, Gibbs launched an essay contest for local middle school students asking them who they believe the park on First Avenue should be named after.
The students suggested naming the park after indigenous American groups and after Frederick Douglass. “These kids are very consciously aware of who they want the park to be named after,” Gibbs said.
Gibbs plans to take the student essays and the petitions to the New York City Council, which has jurisdiction over the name of the park. Additionally, Gibbs’ office is in talks with NYCHA about renaming the Jefferson Houses.
“We held a series of meetings with the tenants and constituents and they said, ‘hey let’s do this,'” Gibbs said.
In 2021, Jefferson’s legacy in New York City sparked a heated debate after calls to remove a Jefferson statue from City Hall.
At the time, Guardian Angles found Curtis Sliwa asked, “Do we suddenly wipe out the images, the markings, the names of all those great patriots?”
The Jefferson statue was eventually moved to the New York Historical Society.