Rough Boy

In the NYT New York section today, a delightful story about public art and gender politics (“For Unloved Queens Statue, Brooklyn Cemetery May Be the Last Stop” by Jay Maeder), with some entertaining writing as a bonus.

The statue is “Civic Virtue Triumphant Over Unrighteousness”, waggishly referred to as “Rough Boy” since it was installed in City Hall Park in Manhattan in 1922 (then moved by Mayor La Guardia to Kew Gardens in Queens, and possibly now to go on Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn):

Rough Boy: Still rough after all these years. If many another male has been obliged to apprehend at least the basics of sensitive, modern sharing-and-caring guyness over these past several generations, Rough Boy isn’t having it. Here he is yet to this day, all 22 marble tons of him, heroically stationed outside Queens Borough Hall with weapon in hand, quite unmistakably beating up on a couple of women who are cringing at his feet. And still to this day he remains sourly unloved by assorted indignants who deem him rude at the very least and want him gone.

Rough Boy in 1922:

and as he is now, somewhat worn:

In the print edition (taken from earlier writing by Maeder on the statue), “Civic Virtue” is described as

A mighty marble allegory. A near-naked youth, 20 feet in the air, built like an oak and astride two women [representing corruption and vice], one of them already defeated, the other still merely cowering.

When it was about to be installed, a Battle of the Sexes erupted. The tale continues (with my favorite bit of writing boldfaced):

Mayor John F. Hylan, an amiable former railroadman who did not stand accused even by his friends of being much more than dim, was nonetheless shrewd enough to sniff political difficulties. Well, women had the vote now. You couldn’t just tell them to sit down and be quiet anymore. Indeed, blocwise, he probably owed them his own recent re-election.

In the end, Hylan was out-foxed by expert testimony at a hearing and Rough Boy went up as planned. But he’s had a tough life, reviled by many and abused by pigeons.




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