NEW YORK — The state’s monument to honor COVID-19 pandemic essential workers will be in a different area of a New York City park after thousands of people Tuesday continued to sign an online petition pushing back against the planned location.
The Essential Workers Monument, also called the Circle of Heroes, is slated for in Battery Park City in the southern tip of Manhattan. The estimated $3 million project, to feature 19 maple trees in a circle with an eternal flame in the center, is set to be completed this summer and open Labor Day, Sept. 6.
The monument will be constructed in a corner of Rockefeller Park instead of the main section of the green space after thousands of city residents expressed frustration, disappointment and anger over the chosen location.
At least 4,705 people had signed a change.org petition Tuesday afternoon pushing Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office to relocate the monument to another area. The petition has a goal of reaching 5,000 signatures.
“Please do not destroy our green space,” Louis Urvois, a New Yorker who signed the online petition, wrote on the webpage. “I’m an EMT. I’d rather be able to run with my kids on the grass than have a statue. Buy me a beer instead. How about a scholarship fund for kids of ‘essential workers.’ It would be a much better use of that money.”
Other signatories expressed concern about children injuring themselves on the eternal flame or unnecessarily killing trees to make space for the monument.
Rockefeller Park has 143,000 square feet of open lawns. The hardscape of the Essential Workers Monument, including paths, benches, flagpole area, is estimated to occupy 3,000 square feet, or about 2% of the current lawn space.
“This plan includes the planting of 20 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,” said Jordan Bennett, a spokesman with Gov. Cuomo’s office. “The location was chosen in an open process by using input from the local community and 23 leaders representing hundreds of thousands of essential workers, and the site design allows for people to continue to enjoy the park space with the hardscape using just 2% of the current lawn. We look forward to working with everyone who uses the public space and to seeing generations of New Yorkers from across the state enjoy this monument.”
The trees in the chosen corner of Rockefeller Park are overgrown for the space, according to the governor’s office, and will be replaced with 20 new red maples.
The Circle of Heroes will feature 19 maple trees to represent the contribution of each of the 19 groups of essential workers who worked tirelessly throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, which first began in March and April 2020, when New York City was the global epicenter of the virus outbreak.
The to-be-honored workers include nurses, doctors, health care workers, transit workers, police officers, EMTs and paramedics, firefighters, teachers, correctional officers, store employees, government employees, National Guard troops, building service workers, utility and communications workers, food service workers, sanitation workers, construction and manufacturing workers, delivery drivers and hospitality industry employees.
“A circle representing that they were all connected because it only worked if all the pieces worked,” Cuomo said. “The eternal flame says your spirit is still alive in us and in our soul, and we will never forget and we are eternally grateful for what you did. We are eternally grateful.”
The state is expected to hire Deborah Bradley Construction and Management Services Inc. to construct the monument and Urban Engineers for the engineering and construction management, Budget Division spokesman Freeman Klopott said in a statement.
Federal COVID-19 aid will not be used to construct the monument. The estimated $3 million cost will come from state capital funds, Klopott said.
Cuomo announced the formation of the Essential Workers Monument Advisory Committee in April. The 23-member committee met to advise on locations, design and installation of the Essential Workers Monument and included state AFL-CIO President Mario Cilento, state Building & Construction Trades Council and Building & Construction Trades Council of Greater New York President Gary LaBarbera and various union leaders and representatives of essential workers from across the state.