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Civic Virtue.

Statue of Man Trampling Mermaids

Field review by the editors.

Brooklyn, New York

"Triumph of Civic Virtue" depicts a nearly-nude club-carrying man trampling two mermaids, Vice and Corruption. It originally stood in Manhattan's City Hall park, where it was meant to impart moral lessons to New York City's scandal-plagued government. It failed. Part of its problem was that it was conceived in 1904, but not unveiled until 1922, when the scandals were long forgotten. Another problem was that people hated it -- particularly mayor Fiorello La Guardia, who reportedly loathed looking out his office window and seeing the man's naked butt.

In 1941 the sculpture was banished to a park outside the municipal hall of Queens, where it again failed to inspire virtue, but at least wasn't noticed as much by people who hated it. That lasted until 2011, when a pair of local grandstanding politicians claimed that the statue was abusive to women,* and demanded that it either be retired to Green-Wood Cemetery, or sold on CraigsList.

(*One of those politicians, representative Anthony Weiner, later confessed to sending women pictures of his crotch).

Civic Virtue weighs 57 tons, and was said to be the largest work of art carved from a single block of marble since Michelangelo's David. Its sculptor, Frederick William MacMonnies, was unaffected by people's hatred of his work, and went on to design the U.S. medal awarded to Charles Lindbergh.

In June 2012 the statue was fenced off, then on December 15 it was hoisted onto a truck and driven to Brooklyn's Green-Wood Cemetery, symbolically burying it. Green-Wood cleaned the statue of its grime and pigeon poop, made a little sign for it, and set it on permanent base in one of the cemetery's many roundabouts. It was reintroduced to the public in August 2013.

Statue of Man Trampling Mermaids

Green-Wood Cemetery

Garland Ave., Brooklyn, NY
Green-Wood Cemetery. From the main entrance at 25th St. and Fifth Ave. follow the signs up to Battle Hill. But instead of going up the stairs to Battle Hill, make a left onto Border Ave. At the next intersection, make a right onto Garland Ave. Follow it for two blocks. The statue is on the island at the intersection of Jasmine and Garland Aves.
Gates open daily 8-5 (Extended hours in summer.) (Call to verify) Local health policies may affect hours and access.
Save to My Sights

Nearby Offbeat Places

Green-Wood CemeteryGreen-Wood Cemetery, Brooklyn, NY - < 1 mi.
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Mosaic House of Boerum HillMosaic House of Boerum Hill, Brooklyn, NY - 2 mi.
In the region:
Handprints of the Stars, New York, NY - 5 mi.

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