Excavation for the new foundation of the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen statue started in Columbus Park this week. The work is part of a permanent podium that replaces what had been rusting the past eight years.
It follows Mayor de Blasio’s highly touted, yet rare, Chinatown visit back in February during Lunar New Year celebrations in which he promised this permanent home. And also that the northern end of the park would be renamed for the founding father of the Republic of China. Both announcements received thunderous applause from the audience.
However, attendees that day likely had little idea these two memorials were actually “givebacks” negotiated in exchange for supporting the borough-based Chinatown jail. Details of other community benefits were made public last week, which included renovation of the restrooms within the park and a “community theater” to be established within the Museum of Chinese in America.
This arrangement isn’t a surprise. As I wrote in an op-ed this year, Mayor de Blasio had never visited Chinatown during his tenure until opposition to the proposed jail at 125 White Street became such an issue. Nor has he ever really shown concern for the wellbeing of NYC’s Chinese/Asian population. Never once has he publicly condemned racist graffiti or possible hate crimes; he balked at a school holiday for the Lunar New Year until legislation was passed in Albany.
Was the Sun Yat-Sen statue, initially installed eight years ago, really in jeopardy of being permanently removed from Columbus Park? Probably not. Just another chip in the game, it seems.
The statue was quietly uprooted three weeks ago for maintenance, but will soon return. I had hoped the city would commission a new statue with arm extended, pointing toward the new jail.