Board Takes First Steps to Remove Theodore Roosevelt Statue from Museum Entrance

By Maya Mau

The controversial Theodore Roosevelt statue in front of the Museum of Natural History will be removed — but it’s not yet clear where it will be taken.

On Thursday, the Community Board 7 Preservation Committee met to discuss the future of the statue, which has stood sentinel on the Central Park West Side of the museum since 1940. With Roosevelt in the center on a horse, accompanied by a Black man and an Indigenous man below, critics see the statue as reinforcing a narrative of white superiority.

Last May, Mayor Bill de Blasio supported the museum’s request to remove the statue. The Roosevelt family has agreed with the decision to remove the statue, stating that the equestrian statue does not reflect “Theodore Roosevelt’s legacy” or “the values of equality and justice.”

Representatives of the New York City Parks Department and the Museum of Natural History discussed the park’s proposal for removal and relocation of the statue at Thursday evening’s meeting. The city has had trouble identifying a legal document showing that ownership was transferred from the state to the city but is working under the assumption that it is owned by the city. The city and the museum both believe that it is important that people focus on the Roosevelt memorial and not the controversial statue that has become its focal point. 

New York City proposes with the support of the Roosevelt family that the statue be moved to a cultural institution dedicated to the life of Theodore Roosevelt, though no officials offered a specific disclosable location. The memorial to Teddy Roosevelt, which was funded by New York State, consists not only of the statue but also the entrance wing itself. In the statue’s place, the city advocates for the placement of a new set of stairs similar to those that already exist on each side of the statue. A subtle outline of the statue will be engraved on the plaza where the statue now stands. There will also be a plaque explaining why the statue was removed so that the entrance’s history is reflected upon rather than forgotten.

Construction is expected to start after approval from the Community Board, Landmark Preservation Committee, and Public Design Commission, and it will likely take several months. The museum’s hope is that the entrance will still be in use for the majority of that time. The museum estimates that the project will cost approximately $2.1 million.

Several committee members expressed concern that the statue would never actually be featured elsewhere and raised the question as to whether the Black and Indigenous men could be featured somewhere else. Others thought that the museum’s plan was appropriate and that the statue does a disservice to the memorial.

The resolution to support the removal of the statue under the terms and conditions proposed by the museum passed.  The resolution to support the modification of the existing plaza as presented by the museum additionally passed but more narrowly. It’s expected to be presented to the full Community Board next month.

NEWS | 61 comments | permalink
    1. Qu says:

      Terrible.
      A bunch of nobody bureaucrats jealous of a great man who will be remembered long past their deaths.

      • Josh says:

        Did you miss the part about the Rooseveky family feeling like the statue does not adequately represent their own family member? What gives you the moral high ground to protect his legacy over his own family who has an actual vested interest in protecting his legacy?

        • Josh says:

          Dope, typo… the Roosevelt family.

        • Qu says:

          Oh please, they’re as much strangers to him as I am. They’re probably upset their family has already peaked and is going downhill.

          • sg says:

            Agreed Qu…but don’t you know the woksters and liberal elites are smarter than everyone else. Looking at yesterday through today’s lense is dangerous…no one will be safe.

        • Steph says:

          Agreed.

      • SM says:

        He was President of the United States…showing him above any two other Americans isn’t unreasonable. His legacy is fine, unlike his dopey heirs.

      • mary says:

        Qu is absolutely right. We are hostages to the politically correct moral legislators.

    2. Shirley Ariker says:

      It’s about time! Since 1982 I’ve passed the statue on my way down CPW and have not ceased to be appalled by the blatant racism and condescension it displayed. I’m white and elderly, by the way.

    3. Katherine says:

      “Every record has been destroyed or falsified, every book rewritten, every picture has been repainted, every statue and street building has been renamed, every date has been altered. And the process is continuing day by day and minute by minute. History has stopped. Nothing exists except an endless present in which the Party is always right.”
      -1984, George Orwell

      • Eric says:

        So true. I just read a story about a St. John’s prof getting fired for essentially teaching Mark Twain. Yes, some characters in his books use a slur (which is a historical accuracy depicted by Twain). But these woke college students have been turned into snowflakes, and they love the power to destroy that their wokeness gives them, so they claim to feel “unsafe” by reading a naughty word. Madness.

      • Liz says:

        But in 1984, by Orwell, that was done for the purpose of keeping the government in power, and this would be done to right racist wrongs of the past. I also worry about going too far, but even though I had not noticed it myself (I am white), I can now clearly recognize that it is racist and can understand how it would be offensive to many. I can’t help but wonder if there is some way to remove the indigenous man and the Black man and place them in an equally prominent location at the entrance, with all three parts of the statue having an explanation as to why they were separated. We don’t want to erase the past, we just want to make the present better.

      • Jo Baldwin says:

        When in tomorrow after tomorrow will the first person ask, “What happened?”

    4. Leon says:

      This is ridiculous. That $2.1 million could help a lot of schools or build affordable housing.

      I view the statue as showing three people from different backgrounds working together peacefully. It is not like this is a statue of Hitler or a white man whipping a black man.

      While the woke crowd worries about 80-year old statues hurting feelings, the Republicans are focusing on winning elections. And us moderates weep…

      • nemo paradise says:

        Maybe they could spend the $2.1 million on putting the Black and Native American on horses too.

        Then they could all ride off to Montana and hunt buffalo. TR would like that.

      • Qu says:

        Throwing 2.1 million of taxpayer money down the drain for something that only helps them build their reputations. Shameful!

      • Renie Reiss says:

        Ditto! That much tax-payer money for this and similar projects is egregious! Education and housing should take priority.

      • Ellen says:

        Whichever side of the argument people of good will come down on or whether some are simply ambivalent, I agree the more important focus must be on fighting voter suppression and getting more Dems elected so the John Lewis voting rights act and the for the people act are passed!

    5. My 2 Cents says:

      We’re gonna WOKE ourselves to oblivion.

    6. Jim Cash says:

      Trembling neurotics have taken charge because those with spine and ambition direct their energies elsewhere – Today, Me.

    7. Ben says:

      Stay woke. It’s all cyclic and gonna swing all the way back some day.

    8. Roy says:

      Our history is not owned by us to change or destroy. Our task is to preserve protect and pass it on accurately to future generations. It is our history. Do not tinker with or change it. Dictators and Marxists tear down statues and revise history, not Democracies.

    9. Pedestrian says:

      The statue is not racist but we are now in an era wherein judgment and discernment no longer exist. No human is perfect and no one can survive being judged not by the standards of their era but rather by the standards of perfection. No statute will survive…not Teddy Roosevelt or Martin Luther King. I’m tired of this kind of smash and burn. It doesn’t push the progressive agenda which I support, forward and it provides the right wing fanatics with red meat to bludgeon us with.

    10. Robert J Segal says:

      The statue should go to Sagamore Hill, Teddy’s home in Oyster Ba. A plaque explaining why it was moved there should identify it for generations to come.

    11. History Repeating says:

      “The statue was meant to celebrate Theodore Roosevelt (1858-1919) as a devoted naturalist and author of works on natural history.”

      What!!!?

      TR wrote books too?

      Why aren’t we burning them?

    12. Nate the Great says:

      It seems the problem lies with the two non-mounted individuals. As such, let’s remove them and replace them with two white non-mounted individuals. Would that be an improvement?

    13. Zags21 says:

      Why does this bother people so much? You don’t get upset when an old building is knocked down to build a condo nobody will live in. It must scare you on some level.

      I would argue the statue itself is history being distorted – not telling the truth about the past.

      Again if this freaks you out you have to look at yourself.

    14. Anthony Smith says:

      While I understand some of the thinking behind this decision, it strikes me as unfounded to view thesis entire sculpture as in any way offensive; the posture and the expressions all three are dignified and wise. To read other things into the sculpture is a too broad and uninformed and unobservant reading. Suppose all 3 figures were on horseback, with the same upright postures and determined facial expressions. Thought of that way; But, for the want of a nail, the shoe was lost etc.-and eventually, so was this sculpture. The more’s the pity…

      • Brandon says:

        “Suppose all 3 figures were on horseback…”

        So you’ve imagined a different sculpture to defend the one that’s actually there?

    15. Annette says:

      I am very sorry to see the statue leave the museum entrance. However, if it offends people and the Roosevelt family thinks it is not representative of their ancestor, then there is nothing to discuss. I hope they are able to determine an appropriate place for the statue.

    16. In the USSR, it was said that: “Russia is a land with an uncertain past; a new regime comes in and the history books are all rewritten”.

      They should leave that statue alone and not spend millions of taxpayer dollars trying to rewrite history- because the history is there, right in front of you: it’s only partially the history of racial attitudes, of a certain mindset during the Beaux-Arts era, on display and should be viewed that way, in that context.

    17. alicia says:

      When will the adults decide to tell these spoiled children of freedom who cry “I’m offended,” to go to hell? The Black man and the Indigenous man walk proudly beside Roosevelt, not behind him.

      We are destroying all our history, whether it’s something to be proud of, or something to be embarrassed by. It’s the history of this nation. How will we learn from it when it’s no longer available?

    18. JM Kass says:

      Take the statue, with or without the 2nd and 3rd man, to Sagamore Hill, the Roosevelt home on Long Island. There is a lot of outdoor space there, and gardens.

    19. Rob G. says:

      I hope that we finally wake up from being woke, we’ll still have some history to appreciate.

    20. Anne says:

      I think this is sort of ridiculous… keep the statue there and use it as a teaching point in broad daylight about how things WERE (white men WERE deemed superior in that time) and it teaches how far we have come when future generations see it as a ridiculous characterization. People want to “white wash” (yes pun intended) the past… these statues become powerful monuments to CHANGE when they are left there for school kids to ponder WHY they are biased. The woke folks are missing the point.

    21. Rita A. says:

      You and Major DeBlasio are RIDICULOUS! EXPLAIN why the statue is there, EXPLAIN why it was made the way it is. TEACH the next generations.
      What you call “politically correct” is nothing but your fear to show your ignorance.

      • You mean a plaque on the statue, explaining the culture that created it?

        That’s an idea worth exploring! That way the City would be putting a civic work of art within a context, and viewers could take it from there, accepting it in part or whole, or rejecting it outright.

        Long story short, it would allow the City to distance itself to some degree from it and encourage thought among viewers, always a worthy goal, rather than encouraging a nanny-state absolutism:

        “No, we’ve arbitrarily decided that you can’t see this statue, due to our sudden woke-ness, which, who knows, may wholly or in part disappear itself in another 20 years, replaced in turn by other attitudes towards questionable art as yet unknown”.

        If readers want to read Ferdinand Celine, they can. If they want to see the photos of Robert Mapplethorpe, the same; so it should be here as well.

        Attitudes change; ars longa, vita brevis.

    22. Margo Viscusi says:

      An elderly White woman, I have lived nearby for decades and whenever I pass this statue it infuriates me. It continues to provide a background for countless photos taken by visitors, often with children in the foreground. The city and the museum delayed and delayed taking action. Remove it soon please.

    23. Carol says:

      This is so stupid! If I remember correctly, didn’t Teddy provide the funds to build the Museum of Natural History? The statue is a true vision of our heritage! Why tear it down? Shame, shame!

    24. John says:

      Why stop at just removing the monument the whole museum is a symbol of Roosevelt. Best thing for everyone is to tear down the building and build section 8 housing on the site to house the city’s homeless.

    25. David Z says:

      ‘Those who fail to learn from history are condemned to repeat it.’
      Winston Churchill, paraphrasing George Satayana
      In other words, don’t erase what bothers you about the past. Contextualize these events and practices so that present and future generations can learn and build from them.

    26. jennifer says:

      It’s a good compromise to move it to Sagamore Hill, as some comments have suggested. It is a wonderful place to visit. Teddy Roosevelt was pretty flawed, as most of our presidents were, but he had some good things about him such as respect for the natural world. He would be appalled if he saw how today’s Republican politicians deregulate everything for corporate profit, let corporations rape and destroy nature and poison people as long as there is a Buck to be made. Truly vile….

    27. LBass says:

      It’s about time. The statue was affront to all New Yorkers. We are not a racist town.

    28. I strongly support the idea of removing the Black and indigenous figures from the statue of Teddy Roosevelt–placing them elsewhere with suitable representative female figures. Roosevelt’s contributions to wilderness preservation deserve to be honored by a statue that does not give an impression of patronizing Blacks and Native Americans. But if you remove the image of TR entirely you will be caving in to what many would perceive as (ugh) “cancel culture.”

    29. Catherine Holmes says:

      Why don’t they simply remove the 2 side statues put them inside the museum with a plaque describing what happened and leave TR on his horse.

      • Liz says:

        I suggested something similar, but I think it is important that the Black man abd the indigenous man are displayed in the front of the museum as well, with explanations on all three as to why they were separated.

    30. Paulof NYC says:

      There are many many better ways to spend 21 million dollars!

      • feed me says:

        21 million dollars of food stamps or free rents? Then it really discourages low income people to look for a higher paying job.

      • Sharon Katz says:

        $2.1 million, not $21 million.

    31. Amy Karr says:

      What an absolute idiotic idea and waste of 2.1 million dollars! Stop all this woke noncense, political correctness, grow a backbone and grow up. Stop complaining, embrace our history. Life is not perfect. Never will be!

    32. Ken Collins says:

      The museum surely knows where they will be putting the statue – they can hardly make plans to remove it without knowing what they will do with it. Their claim to the contrary is disingenuous and raises suspicions – why are they being so coy?

      • Steevie says:

        Ken: A lot of works of art of all types are not on display. They are in storage. TR probably did more for conservation than all other Presidents combined, so this is too bad. I do not find the statue offensive, but I am white. I just think that going forward, we have to be really careful about this sort of thing. In private President Harry Truman used the n-word, but he also integrated the military. Complicated stuff.

    33. ST says:

      The board at the AMNH is the worst crew of privileged entitled people ever. First they blatantly steal park land for their addition and now this with no input from the public. Have vowed never to set foot there again.

    34. Theodore Roosevelt says:

      This is what they’re doing with tax money these days? Shame on them.

    35. Ron Gorhem says:

      What on earth will they replace it with? Will all our institutions have these sad empty niches and spaces like a city sacked by its enemies?

    36. Sam Koo says:

      If the issue is the Black and Indigenous men, why don’t they remove them and leave the President’s Statue and his legacy alone?
      I fail to understand the logic.
      Who is leading this movement anyway?
      Over 2 million dollars.
      How many lunches for the needy?