De Blasio: City Council wants Thomas Jefferson statue removed

Mayor Bill de Blasio said the proposal to remove a statue of Thomas Jefferson from City Hall came from members of the City Council and not from either him or first lady Chirlane McCray. 

Speaker Corey Johnson and the council's Black, Latino and Asian Caucus asked that the city's Public Design Commission approve the loan of the statue of the Founding Father to the New-York Historical Society "for a period of time," the mayor said.

De Blasio said the statue, which has lived in City Hall for nearly 200 years, is on the council's side of the building. 

"I respect their right to make that request," the mayor said at his briefing on Thursday. "The Public Design Commission will make its decision and we'll move forward."

The commission, which is made up of mayoral appointees, has the statue's fate on the agenda for its Monday meeting. The members will review written comments submitted from the public but won't hold a public debate, the New York Post reported.

De Blasio then shared his personal views on Jefferson, whom he called "very complex to say the least."

"The thing that is so troubling to people is that even someone who understood so deeply the values of freedom and human dignity and the value of each life was still a slave owner. I understand why that profoundly bothers people and why they find it something that can't be ignored," de Blasio said. "At the same time, stating the obvious, one of the most profoundly important figures in American history and one of the people who created this nation and created the good and strong and vibrant values of this nation."

The part that Jefferson played in the history of the nation — he wrote the Declaration of Independence — needs to be seen, the mayor said, but his "profoundly troubling" contradictions have to be acknowledged, too.

"The past happened — it's not about the past, it's about what it means to the future," de Blasio said. "And we got to be honest about both sides of his history."

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