Shirley, you’re kidding!
Officials on Friday fell over themselves to honor the trail-blazing Brooklyn politician, former Rep. Shirley Chisholm, on her birthday, with two city leaders announcing as many monuments to the nation’s first black congresswoman on the same day.
The city’s First Lady, Chirlane McCray, got a head start on Nov. 30 — what would have been Chisholm’s 94th birthday — making an early morning announcement that a $1-million likeness of the late legislator, who died in 2005, would grace the Parkside Avenue entrance of Brooklyn’s Backyard sometime in 2020 as part of a mayoral initiative to memorialize New York City’s most distinguished dames.
“Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm’s legacy of leadership and activism has paved the way for thousands of women to seek public office,” said McCray. “She is exactly the kind of New York woman whose contributions should be honored with representation in our public spaces.”
But Crown Heights Councilman Robert Cornegy Jr., not to be outdone, later that day announced he will unveil a scale model of another Chisholm statue at the Brooklyn Children’s Museum on Dec. 3. The actual likeness will be installed at nearby Brower Park next year, as part of Cornegy’s own initiative to honor storied people of color hailing from the 36th Council District, which also includes parts of Bedford-Stuyvesant.
And in announcing his own statue, the councilman took the opportunity to talk smack about Mayor DeBlasio’s policy of removing city monuments to controversial figures — such as a bust of controversial, early gynecologist J. Marion Sims, which officials shipped from its long-time Central Park home to Green-Wood Cemetery earlier this year — by arguing that leaders should focus on honoring worthy residents, not removing tributes to whom some consider less-deserving.
“It’s more important to promote the contributions of a wider array of people and cultures, than to tear down statues commemorating those we may not like,” Cornegy said. “My children benefit from the entire wealth of this country’s history — the good, bad, and indifferent.”
Of course, Gov. Cuomo beat everybody to the punch in September, when he announced $20 million in funding for the new Shirely Chisholm State Park coming to East New York as part of his Vital Brooklyn wellness initiative, designs for which should be completed by 2021.
And the former Congresswoman isn’t lacking for honors in her home borough, which is already home to such tributes as Fort Greene’s Shirley A. Chisholm State Office Building, Shirley Chisholm Circle in Brower Park, Shirely Chisholm Campus in Canarsie, and the forthcoming Shirley A. Chisholm Community Center in East Flatbush.