The city’s Public Design Commission, which is comprised of appointees of Mayor Bill de Blasio, voted last week to move the statue to the New York Historical Society on a long-term loan. The commission’s executive director, Keri Butler, initially attempted to block press from viewing the removal but was overruled by city council members and members of the mayor’s office, the New York Post reported.
The New York City Council’s Black, Latino and Asian Caucus called for the vote last week.
“Each day [the statue] is allowed to linger there serves as a reminder to our members of the horrors perpetrated against Blacks and Indigenous Peoples by revered figures – like Jefferson – who were instrumental in America’s creation, but also known practitioners of slavery that espoused white supremacist belief,” the caucus said in a statement.
Five city council members first called to remove the statue last year in the wake of massive demonstrations following the death of George Floyd.
“The statue of Thomas Jefferson in the City Council Chambers is inappropriate and serves as a constant reminder of the injustices that have plagued communities of color since the inception of our country. It must be removed,” the council members said in a letter on June 18, 2020.
The statue is a plaster replica of the bronze likeness of Jefferson that sits in the Capitol rotunda. Uriah P. Levy, the first Jewish commodore in the U.S. navy and an admirer of Jefferson, commissioned the original statue in 1883 to honor Jefferson’s support for religious freedom. The replica was donated to New York City Hall in 1834, eight years after Jefferson’s death.