The state will find a new location for the monument to essential workers

The chairman of the Battery Park City Authority, George Tsunis, told residents at Rockefeller yesterday that the state will definitely choose another spot for the monument. And he says — you can watch the video yourself — that the governor has agreed. It’s clear from the video that there was a pretty shallow understanding at the top of how these parks are used. “We really didn’t understand the proximity and how many parents and children [play here],” he told the group.

So chalk that up to a really valuable success for BPC and its neighbors.

UPDATE: Neighbors tell me they are still planning a rally on Monday, July 5, from 3 to 4p at the site on the lawn. Wear yellow to show support.


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Now as a Tribeca resident, I don’t feel I have the street cred to tell people what to do with Battery Park City property. But I think I know the parks there better than the authority’s leadership — at least I have used them more — and since they greenlighted what is obviously a ridiculous location for a monument to essential workers, it’s given me license to weigh in, with the help of some local residents.

1. Rename an existing piece of BPC parkland.
Rockefeller is named for the creator of Battery Park City but it *could* be renamed, or better yet choose a BPC park that has a merely descriptive name, such as South Cove, Teardrop Park (especially the north side lawn and rock garden) or Rector Park. There’s precedent here: the Hugh L. Carey Tunnel, the RFK Bridge and of course the Gov. Mario M. Cuomo Bridge.

2. Add a sculpture and rename Belvedere Plaza.
This was J Frank P’s suggestion in comments, and it makes even more sense. Rename the grove of trees and the lookout — which is a really lovely but underutilized spot — and hold a design competition for a sculpture at that site, which often has temporary sculptures anyway. (And then you just have to hope we get something better than the Hurricane Maria monument.)

Option three of course is for the governor to spend these funds (I have yet to find out what the budget is for the monument, despite questions) on state parkland in another neighborhood: I would propose Riverbank Park in Washington Heights or Roberto Clemente in the South Bronx — they are both 25+-acre parks. My guess is there’s an added layer of permissions on parkland vs. authority property that he doesn’t want to deal with, but still…

Hopefully if the authority makes good on its plan to bring neighbors into this discussion next week, and a better location will be chosen. I don’t agree with some neighbors who say they just want to be heard — I actually think there should be absolutely no construction at this site for a monument full stop. But there is the potential for both the governor’s office and local residents to get what they want by redirecting these plans.



  1. While it may not be the best place in New York for an essential workers monument, it still is an area close enough to heavily touristed areas that may warrant placement in battery park. Belvedere Plaza really does make a lot of sense. The victory of the grass and trees staying was the number one priority, so locals can concede having something, if properly planned.

    Perhaps the discussions can negotiate this is the final monument as to not make it an easy dumping ground in the future for the state, at the very least the last one of a certain scope?

  2. Hi Pam
    The budget for the Essential Workers Monument is $3m.
    Thanks for your coverage. Much appreciated from #pausethesaws team.


  3. wait. so george tunis is the chair of bpca but doesn’t live in bpc or even in manhattan and yet is making decisions on behalf of our community?! how does this happen and how do we prevent it from happening again?

    • It took a 2017 law to mandate Cuomo have at least 2 of 7 BPCA board members reside in BPC.

      Either get more Cuomo contributors to live in BPC or change the law to mandate a 4 of 7 majority be BPC residents (or both :-) )

    • Sad, but true, Urban Cowgirl. BPCAuthority was created in 1968 by NYState to develop and maintain a new neighborhood. When construction was done, it was quite a challenge to get the Authority to adapt to working with the humans who live here. The Board and other management have adapted pretty well, but the Governor – he never misses a chance to throw his weight around!

  4. If this is really true, if the park really has been spared, this is a tremendous victory! We should all be celebrating! Thank you to all the wonderful people who spent long days and nights in extremely hot weather to save our beloved park and trees. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! You should have a plaque at the site (a small one!).

  5. I’m so grateful for this decision. Every time I walk through that park I marvel at what an oasis it is. Thanks to everyone who worked so hard toward this result.

  6. Very happy that they will move the site. In the sweltering weather we’ve been having the value of trees and grass are not just for enjoyment only, but for health of our kids and seniors that need shade. I commented on the petition yesterday that cities around the country are ADDING plants not getting rid of trees. Ironically, yesterday I came across this site that details such activities:
    A worthy spend of the money for the monument could be a new shady, planted grassy site for essential workers somewhere that helps the environment, creates shade as the planet gets hotter and offers respite for our essential workers and their families.
    It was an incredibly dopey plan to begin with — we don’t need more cement monuments that cut down trees.

  7. The $3m sounds like the $50m Donald Rumsfeld promises the war in Iraq would cost. It’s laughably low and since the governors office also said this proposal was fine because it consumed 2% of green space, AND we have no transparency, it’s likely not true. In addition, resident funded fees will have to maintain the memorial so the long term cost of maintaining it which includes a gas line on a flood plain is on residents.
    Residents have the upper hand now and should get at least an agreement to have no further memorials or structures without proper processes and approval by the community, approval for location and design of new memorial, financial support for on hosing maintenance, any changes to the neighborhood initiated from the state also need to go through the community.
    Belvedere is actually a lovely quiet spot that we enjoy as is. Let’s not use “under utilized” as criteria for potential new locations. Pier A seems like a great spot if it has to be here, but honestly, why not improve some other patch of state land that could use an infusion of state funds?

  8. Why not take that cash and do something at Pier 76 in HRP?

    It’s a huge open space without much green and it’s right across from Javits Center, which played a key role as a hospital and for vaccinations. Plant trees and greenify the space there.

  9. Pam, thank you so much for keeping us in the know about this, and for everything you do to keep Tribeca Citizen going.

    The Belvedere, South Cove, and Rector Park are perfect as they are. These places were designated from the get-go to be part of the design of the neighborhood, to be “underutilized” as Cami says above, intended to be quiet, passive, open space, and they have grown into a really nice, cohesive, permanent reality. The people who did the original plan for BPC created an impressive plan, and because they did such a good job, 30+ years later it’s still working as a great place to live.

    The Belvedere has a serene, tranquil view through the trees to the river that is framed by the pylons and adding anything to that area would ruin it. The small house element that is there right now that is off to the side isn’t bad, because it doesn’t interfere with the view, but this memorial needs to be bigger than that. It took 30-ish years to get the Belvedere to this beautiful state with mature trees, so messing with it would put us right back where we were a week ago—destroying something important.

    Just because it’s not full of kids doesn’t mean it’s “underutilized,” in normal times those benches were often filled by workers in what was the mercantile exchange, and will no doubt be used by whoever is in that building now when they return to work and the building is fully occupied (I don’t know if it’s completely leased since the exchange left). And just walking through there is such a joy that taking it away would be as bad as the idea that just got shot down. It is “differently utilized.”

    The bottom line is that there is no “underutilized” space left (by design) in BPC and someone (resident? politician? volunteer?) has to be proactive and find an underused space in an area that was heavily impacted by the pandemic that can be easily obtained and will be improved by the memorial. There must be dozens of places in Queens (I think that is the area that was most impacted) that would want it. Can someone who knows that area or any other think of anything? Alternatively, I think the suggestion by “person” above is brilliant.

    • Exactly there isn’t underutilized space….different quiet uses need to be protected as well!! Not everyone has a child or wants to sit on grass. Some prefer the benches and quietly reflecting or watching the water as a break from the noise and density.

      • Don’t disagree, and that’s why I say just rename a place. Put up a plaque or new signage, repaint benches, add some new sod, have a ceremony and you have a space to dedicate and honor.

        • I agree with you but it won’t satisfy Cuomo’s ego. Now that I think of it, the one possible space is ironically the one that was foisted on us after 9/11, by former governor Pataki. According to his thinking, that wide walkway along Little West Street that he insisted on (locals wanted a playground or something more lively; I don’t remember the details) would be used by masses of tourists to walk from Battery Park to the Trade Center memorial, which hasn’t happened. Locals called it “Patakistan” because it was so deserted. They finally put in a citibike station and that signage about something or other, but they could put something under the trees that are already there.

  10. Wherever the new site is, trees should be added, not deleted.

  11. Important to protest when necessary! I remember in the early 80’s sit ins at Board of Ed on Livingston St., and picketing at City Hall when they wanted to close the P.S.3 Annex, which turned in the new P.S.234!

  12. I just read elsewhere that the two new possible sites are 1) the grassy trees area right near to the Irish Memorial and 2) the volleyball court next to the harbor. There were a lot of surveyors out this am at both spots as well as at the shady tree area on the other side of the harbor. Why can’t this project be slowed down so that there can be careful consideration? The park is so beautiful as is.