Local City Councilmember Carlina Rivera is calling on the Parks Department to address the future of the Samuel S. Cox statue in Tompkins Square Park.
In a letter dated Thursday, Rivera asks Parks Commissioner Mitchell Silver to address the community about the plans for the statue, created in 1891 and standing at this location since 1924.
Per the letter:
Historians and numerous New Yorkers have highlighted that Cox’s history — beyond his work regarding pro-labor policies at the United States Postal Service — includes very disturbing examples of white supremacy, particularly as it relates to emancipation and Black civic participation in the mid-1800s.
Today’s demands for social justice that are being raised across this country must be met with a holistic review of the (mostly) men whom we honor with place names and statues in our public spaces.
I am sure most New Yorkers would agree that these landmarks should not remain as a public reminder to many of our neighbors that, for much of United States history, they were not considered nor treated as equals to white Americans. As many historians have suggested, such statuary is better situated in non-public settings, such as museums, where they can remain as an educational tool for future generations choosing – operative word — to view and understand our nation’s racist legacy. Encountering the Cox statue while visiting Tompkins Square Park is not a choice.
I hope that you will consider speaking with the local community immediately, specifically Black residents of the Lower East Side, to consult with them on the Cox statue’s fate.
The Cox statue has been under 24/7 NYPD supervision since July 25. It was tagged overnight with ACAB and "black power" on July 16-17. One of the officers in the Park told us that they will be on duty outside the Cox statue "for the foreseeable future." It is unclear if there was a threat against the statue to prompt police protection.
Cox (1824–1889) was a longtime member of Congress who spearheaded legislation that led to paid benefits and a 40-hour workweek for postal employees.
In a post titled "Why Is New York City Still Celebrating Statues of Racists?" from 2014 for the History News Network, Alan Singer, a historian and professor at Hofstra, wrote about Cox's history: "[He] fancied himself a champion of the United States Constitution but somehow his interpretation of the Constitution always seemed to deny rights to Blacks. On June 2, 1862, a year after the Civil War had begun but six months before the Emancipation Proclamation, Cox argued in Congress that the United States was made for white men only."
Earlier this summer, the city announced it was removing the statue of Theodore Roosevelt — long considered a racist symbol — from the American Museum of Natural History's entrance.
The death of George Floyd has led to the removal — by protesters in some cases and city leaders in others — of statues across the country because of the racist ideals they represent.