Once upon a time, a century ago to be precise, one William H. Flattau, a New York City property owner, took a liking to the then 16-year-old Statue of Liberty. So deep were his affection and admiration, in fact, that he had a smaller version cast at a foundry in Akron, Ohio, and shipped here. The 22-foot-high replica, faithful to the original down to the last detail, was put on a pedestal on the roof of a warehouse at 43 West 64th St., Manhattan, in 1902, where it has resided for the past 100 years. At one time anyone who cared to could ascend the 15-foot-high pedestal and the statue itself to view the surrounding neighborhood
Flattau has long since departed this life, and the eight-story warehouse atop which the smaller statue is perched is about to be converted to apartments, with four additional floors built onto it. Even if the statue were to remain at the site—a prospect by no means certain—it would have to be removed while construction is underway. Renovation in this case will almost certainly mean eviction for the building's most conspicuous tenant.
At least half a dozen proposals for the statue's future have come in to the president of the Athena Group which now owns the warehouse. One would send her around the United States so small towns can "enjoy the Statue of Liberty." This suggestion would seem to be ruled out on the basis of some practical considerations—when the statue was originally cast it had to be sliced in half to fit though the railroad tunnels which straddled its route between Akron and New York City. Many of the highways over which the statue would travel also have bridges and overpasses with clearances too low for the piece to fit.
Several organizations where the statue would seem to belong simply cannot accommodate it. "Much as I'd like to have it, we'd have to knock down the building to make room," Kenneth Jackson, president of the New York Historical Society, admitted. Although the renovated Tweed Courthouse in lower Manhattan might also seem suitable, the building's deputy director also expressed misgivings.
The Brooklyn Museum's Frieda Schiff Warburg Memorial Sculpture Garden holds other relics such as an allegorical sculpture rescued from the original Pennsylvania Station and museum officials have said they would welcome the statue. However, it seems obvious that as the statue is a smaller image of the original Lady in the Harbor which greeted generations of immigrants to these shores it belongs in a place more in keeping with the spirit in which the original was created and dedicated.
For some time now "the wretched refuse," as Emma Lazarus called immigrants in her poem, "The New Colossus," engraved on a plaque inside the base of the full-size Statue of Liberty, have arrived in the New World not in steerage aboard ships, but in airliner coach class. Most of the immigrants who get off a plane do so right here in the borough of Queens. Some of them head for other parts of the country, but many stay, making Queens one of the most diverse counties on earth. In Astoria and Long Island City alone, 118 languages are spoken and the rest of the borough is similarly multicultural and polylingual. What's more, most of the newcomers as well as their neighbors born here live side by side, for the most part harmoniously. Given all this, Queens appears to be the most appropriate place to relocate the statue. With the strong possibility that New York City will host the 2012 Olympic Games, a spot in Astoria Park, which will be used for water sport events, would seem ideal.
We urge our readers to contact the Athena Group and press the case for Queens as the statue's new home. As the full-size Lady Liberty has welcomed newcomers, so would Queens welcome her smaller sister. This is truly where she belongs.