2003-07-18 / Community

Parks Officials: GI Jane Memorial Statue Safe, At Least For Now

By Mara Lander
Parks Officials: GI Jane Memorial Statue Safe, At Least For Now By Mara Lander

New York City officials are reassuring the Rockaway community regarding the relocation of the "Doughgirl statue (what many locals call "GI Jane") located on the north side of Rockaway Beach Boulevard between 95 Street and 94 Street, directly across from the original Doughboy statue.

The community was stirred to action last week when the New York Times printed an article outlining possible plans for relocation of the statue, which stands at a temporary city site although it has established itself permanently in the hearts of many in the Rockaway community.

The O’Connell post of the American Legion commissioned the statue 14 years ago, and sculptor Eileen Barry created the monument.

In order for a piece of art to be permanently placed on city property, however, the New York City Arts Commission must approve it. Upon completion of the statue 14 years ago, the artistic integrity of the statue was questioned, and rather than taking its proposed site, next to the doughboy, it was temporarily placed across the street.

Local residents certainly do not share the sentiment of the Arts Commission, nor do many of the local veterans groups.

Pat Toro Jr., President of Queens Chapter 32 of the Vietnam Veterans of America, visited the statue himself this past week. "I don’t find anything wrong with the statue at all. In fact, it is the first time I’ve seen a female statue with a helmet, which is great. As far as I’m concerned it’s a very nice monument," Toro said.

Adele Brenner, a World War II veteran, and Rockaway resident, strongly supports keeping the statue here in Rockaway. "It is important because Rockaway was well represented by women in all services, especially in World War II," Brenner says. "The statue represents all of us who gave our youth to the war effort, and we should be the ones who decide where the statue belongs. The consensus is, to leave it exactly where it is.’

This favorable community opinion may be what has kept the monument in its temporary place for the past 14 years.

A representative of the Parks Department said, "Certainly we are aware that there is community interest, and that is part of the reason it has remained."

The Parks Department has also made efforts to assure the community that it is not yet time to say goodbye to the statue. "No decisions have been made, and the statue is not in immediate jeopardy, but we are revisiting the issue. We plan to meet with the Arts Commission to figure out it’s future, but there are no plans to relocate.’’

City Councilman Joe Addabbo Jr. was also calmed by his conversation with Parks Department officials. "They will not touch the dough girl. There is no issue there. That is directly from the Parks Department. No plans whatsoever for relocation."

Ultimately the fate of the statue lies in the hands of the Arts Commission, but local residents are hoping that they will see the error of their ways and make the statue a permanent part of the Rockaway landscape.

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