Open Space Advisory Committee Recommends Ban On Statues On Open Space

The Open Space Advisory Committee recommended Sept. 18 that the Township Council ban statues on open space.

The Open Space Advisory Committee on Sept. 18 hardened its stance on the proposed “Peace and Nonviolence” Monument park by voting to recommend that no statues be placed on any township-owned open space.

The monument park, championed by Township Councilman Rajiv Prasad (D-At Large) is targeted for about 9,000 square feet on open space at the corner of Route 27 and Cortelyous Lane. Bronze statues of Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King and busts of Nelson Mandela and Saint Teresa of Calcutta are planned to be placed there.

The committee in June recommended against placing the four  statues and busts there, deciding instead to suggest that a memorial be created at the Memorial Forest at Cedar Grove Lane and Amwell Road.

But at the committee’s September meeting, members decided that further action needed to be taken.

Committee member Arnold Schmidt made the two-pronged motion to recommend that the Township Council ban statues from open space and, in the event that the first part is not accepted by the council, that any projects involving statues on open space be brought to the committee for its review and recommendations.

“I don’t think its appropriate for several different reasons,” he said. “If you put statues or busts on a certain property, then that opens up the floodgates for someone else coming in and saying, well, we want a statue of Donald Trump on this property; he’s our president and we should put a statue of hm up there. And then 100 people come out to a council meeting and say yes, we want a statue of Donald Trump. So, ok, then ,what’s the process for this.”

“There’s so many other different things that could be proposed,” he said. “Where does it end? It’s a matter of what’s the criteria for having a statue or bust and where it would go?”

Schmidt also said costs would be involved with any statues on open space, which would be paid out of the Open Space Trust Fund.

The historical figures depicted in the statues “are wonderful people; they belong on private property or they belong in a museum,” he said.

Committee member Bill Connell said one problem is that the committee has not guidelines on how to approve statues. He said he contacted the Grounds for Sculpture in Hamilton for their guidelines.

As far as the “Peace and Nonviolence” park is concerned, he said, “I feel pretty strongly that we shouldn’t bother.”

Committee member John Moon, the Recreation Advisory Council representative, said that the four “humanitarian giants” deserved to be recognized, “100 percent.”

“But you could open up a can of worms, he said. “I think they should be honored, without a doubt.”

The difficulty, Moon said, is that they would not be able to refuse statue requests in the future.

“The philosophy is fantastic,” he said. “But once you put them there, you can’t stop” someone else from coming in. “We should be very careful in our decision.”

Committee member Bob LaCorte, representing the Historic Preservation Commission, said “statues shouldn’t be placed on open space land.

“Private, go right ahead,” he said. “Township-owned property, go right ahead. I think open space should remain open space.”

Cecile MacIvor, the Planning Board representative, suggested placing the statues around the new gazebo located by the township library, in the municipal complex on DeMott Lane.

Committee chairman Randy Jones asked if statues are banned, how would that affect other means of remembering people.

“How do you name a park after somebody, how do you name a trail after someone?” he asked.

“This motion is about statues and busts,” Schmidt said.

“So we can’t put George Washington on open space,” Jones said.

“The point is, it opens up a can of worms about putting things on open space property,” Schmidt said. “You want to put a bust of George Washington, put it on township property that’s not open space.”

“What’s the difference?” Jones asked, noting that open space and township property are both paid fro by taxes.

“It’s our job to make a recommendation to the council,” Schmidt said. “The council can accept it or reject it. Five years from now they might decide, we’ve changed our mind.”

In speaking about the status of Prasad’s park, Mayor Phil Kramer said that there was “chatter” among some council members to “start from scratch.”

Kramer said that at the Sept. 13 Township Council meeting, during which the council and Prasad were lambasted for the way in which the monument park approval process is being handled, several council members said the process “is broken.”

“I’ve heard chatter among council since, to form a citizens’ committee to start the process from square one,” Kramer said.

When it came time to vote on Schmidt’s motion, Jones cast the lone “no” vote.


Your Thoughts


Please Support Independent Journalism In Franklin Township!

No other media outlet covering Franklin Township brings you the depth of information presented by the Franklin Reporter & Advocate. Period. We are the only truly independent media serving the Eight Villages.

But we can only do that with your support. Please consider a yearly subscription to our online news site; at $37 a year, it’s one of the best investments you can make in our community.

To subscribe, please click here.

Other News From The Eight Villages …