As the country begins taking a hard look at its Confederate monuments, New Yorkers are calling for the removal of a Central Park statue honoring Dr. J. Marion Sims.
The efforts have been spearheaded by Council Member Melissa Mark-Viverito, a highly-active official known for speaking out in the wake of President Trump’s election.
The East Harlem statue, which sits on Fifth Avenue around 103rd Street, pays homage to a surgeon who, despite being recognized as a prominent figure in modern gynecology, experimented on black females without their permission or administering anesthesia.
Although it has thoroughly acknowledged and explained on its website the disturbing history of racial abuse that lies behind Sims’ work, so far, the Parks Department is keeping the statue, having rejected every request for its removal in the past.
But Mark-Viverito says the time for change is now. “El Barrio residents have waited long enough for the City to act,” she said in a statement Monday, calling on the Parks Department and Mayor de Blasio to remove the monument. “At a time when Neo-Nazis, white nationalists and hateful right wing extremists run rampant throughout the country with impunity, we must send a definitive message that the despicable acts of J. Marion Sims are repugnant and reprehensible.”
The mayor recently announced “a 90-day review of all symbols of hate on city property,” and reportedly said the Sims statue would receive attention. Mark-Viverito says if the statue remains, a plaque needs to be placed there to give historical context to the legacy of the doctor’s racist practices.
"We are putting together a panel of relevant experts and community leaders and they will design the criteria and offer recommendations on specific items," said Ben Sarle, the mayor's deputy press secretary. "It's the beginning framework of what will ideally be a long-term approach to the evaluation of public structures and controversial pieces of public art.
The Sims statue is obviously one that will get very immediate attention because there’s been a tremendous concern raised about it."