Monumental discourse: Cemetery leaders setting meeting with neighbors about controversial statue

Brooklyn Paper
Share on TwitterTweet
Share on Facebook

Don’t miss our updates:

They want to bury this controversy once and for all.

The top brass at a local graveyard will meet with critics seething over a plan to adorn the necropolis with a polarizing statue that city officials banished from public display.

A Green-Wood Cemetery rep said its leaders organized the meeting to ensure they are “good neighbors” to residents who blasted them for welcoming the likeness of 19th-century gynecologist J. Marion Sims — who conducted experiments on black female slaves — which the mayor proposed banishing from a Manhattan park as part of the citywide monument review he staged last year after protests over the removal of a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee from a park in Charlottesville, Va. turned deadly.

The sit-down will be the first time bigwigs at the privately run boneyard directly address the issue with its neighbors, many of whom complained that their opinions weren’t sought in the decision to bring the statue to the bucolic burial ground, according to a civic honcho.

“What I find disconcerting is we weren’t consulted, and I think we should have been,” said Community Board 7 chairman Cesar Zuniga, whose district includes Green-Wood Cemetery.

Members of the city’s Public Design Commission officially signed off on the monument’s move to the graveyard at an April 16 meeting where several people spoke in favor of ousting it from its home in Central Park — but no CB7 members appeared to oppose its transfer to Green-Wood, where it is currently being stored after arriving there later last week.

And two days later, Zuniga put forth a motion urging Green-Wood leaders to reconsider taking the statue at a meeting of his civic panel, but quickly withdrew it after multiple members — including a former chairman — said the board should focus its attention elsewhere.

“We are wasting our time shaking our fists and clucking our tongues at a statue,” said Daniel Murphy.

One former CB7 member, however, accused those who supported the sculpture’s relocation of being a bunch of clueless white guys.

“They were all white men saying these things,” said Malissa del Valle Ortiz, who is black. “It was very offensive, and if you’re not a woman — a woman of color — you don’t know where I’m speaking from.”

Zuniga ultimately told the board’s district manager to reach out to the cemetery after Greenwood Heights Councilman Carlos Menchaca washed his hands of the matter at the meeting, telling attendees a solution must “come from you.”

Graveyard honchos have yet to set a date for the Sims summit with residents, whose opposition to the statue likely won’t die any time soon, according to Zuniga.

“We’ll have a range of conversations, including what can we do to be responsive to women of color who say this is a very historical figure, and we don’t want him in our community,” he said.

Cemetery officials previously vowed to use the effigy as a learning device, promising to display it along with informational material that explains the dastardly medical practices of the so-called “father of modern gynecology,” who himself is buried in one of the site’s roughly 500,000 graves.

But Ortiz said she would rather see the statue destroyed, and its metal reshaped into a new monument honoring women.

“It would be great if they could recycle and repurpose it as a positive image,” she said.

Anyone interested in attending the meeting with Green-Wood Cemetery leaders can contact Community Board 7 at (718) 854–0003 for more information.

Reach reporter Colin Mixson at or by calling (718) 260-4505.
Updated 5:45 pm, July 9, 2018
Today’s news:
Share on TwitterTweet
Share on Facebook

Don’t miss our updates:

Reasonable discourse

Rufus Leaking from BH says:
Did those "experiments" lead to the slaves relief from their painful affliction?

Curb your feigned outrage unless you know what you are talking about.
April 24, 2018, 8:58 am
Knowledge first from Brooklyn says:
The specifics are critical to make an informed choice. The word "experiments" in of itself means nothing.

This story would be more valuable if it possessed the specifics of this man's work - were they only black woman, what were the people's physical state, was pain involved, what was accomplished, etc.?

Rather the story only seeks to insight controversy without substance.
April 24, 2018, 9:43 am
Frank from Bay Rigde says:
I agree with Knowledge first.
April 24, 2018, 10:26 am
Amazing man from Greenpoint says:
He helped millions of woman from their suffering.
April 24, 2018, 10:30 am
Morris from Mill Basin says:
The same goes for the rest of you white trash.
April 24, 2018, 10:37 am
Petey from Sunset park says:
Knowledge first is spot on. The the progressive racist don't allow an opinion that is different from theirs
April 24, 2018, 11:54 am
Charlie from Park Slope says:
I think that Mr. Mixson's calling the final resting place of hundreds of thousands of human beings a "boneyard" is extremely insensitive. He owes everyone that has relatives buried there a sincere apology. He has also insulted the good poeple of Green-wood Cemetary who assiduously endeavor to honor those who are interred there. What about it, Mixon! Man-up.
April 25, 2018, 6:56 am
TOM from Sunset Park says:
I was going to comment but changed my mind when I read the above comments. Does the Brooklyn Paper blog have a moderator? Or have they contracted-out that needed function to FACEBOOK?
April 26, 2018, 3:54 pm
Morris from Mill Basin says:
The South will Rise again. TRUMP 2019!
April 26, 2018, 6:59 pm

Comments closed.

First name
Last name
Your neighborhood
Email address
Daytime phone

Your letter must be signed and include all of the information requested above. (Only your name and neighborhood are published with the letter.) Letters should be as brief as possible; while they may discuss any topic of interest to our readers, priority will be given to letters that relate to stories covered by The Brooklyn Paper.

Letters will be edited at the sole discretion of the editor, may be published in whole or part in any media, and upon publication become the property of The Brooklyn Paper. The earlier in the week you send your letter, the better.

Keep it local!

Stay in touch with your community. Subscribe to our free newsletter: