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Council retreats! “Evacuation Day Plaza” back on list for vote

Photo by Bill Egbert Councilmember Margaret Chin and Lower Manhattan Historical Society co-founder James Kaplan unveiled an “Evacuation Day Plaza” sign at the 2015 Evacuation Day ceremony at Bowling Green.
Photo by Bill Egbert
Councilmember Margaret Chin and Lower Manhattan Historical Society co-founder James Kaplan unveiled an “Evacuation Day Plaza” sign at the 2015 Evacuation Day ceremony at Bowling Green.

After inexplicably disqualifying the proposal to co-name Bowling Green to commemorate America’s final victory over the British last month, the Council has now included “Evacuation Day Plaza” on the list of honorary street co-namings to be considered on Feb.4.

Councilmember Margaret Chin sponsored the proposal late last year, and unveiled an “Evacuation Day Plaza” sign at the Evacuation Day ceremony at Bowling Green on Nov. 25. The Council routinely supports co-namings endorsed by the local member, so supporters of the proposal were shocked to find out that “Evacuation Day Plaza” was not on the list set to be approved by the parks and recreation committee last month prior to a vote by the full Council.

In the face of criticism from the proposal’s supporters, the parks committee canceled the hearing entirely, delaying the full Council’s bi-annual vote on street co-namings for a month.

Sources on the Council staff said that the initial rejection stemmed from the fact that street co-namings typically honor individuals or groups for outstanding civic service, rather than commemorating something as abstract as an event or holiday.

But the list of co-namings the committee was set to approve last month included such abstractions as “Diversity Plaza” in Queens, “Ragamuffin Way” in Brooklyn, and “Hip Hop Boulevard” in the Bronx.

Chin vowed to continue pushing the Council to give “Evacuation Day Plaza” due consideration, and her work behind the scenes seems to have paid off. The co-naming is now on the list the parks committee is slated to approve later this week.

Evacuation Day commemorates the final departure of the British on Nov. 25, 1783, from the Lower Manhattan occupation zone that had been the kingdom’s headquarters during the Revolutionary War. Just before George Washington’s triumphant arrival at Bowling Green that day, a former prisoner of war named John Van Arsdale managed to climb the greased flagpole where the departing British had nailed a Union Jack, and replace it with the Stars and Stripes.

Once celebrated as fervently as the Fourth of July, Evacuation Day was eclipsed by Thanksgiving, official observations were mostly abandoned nearly a century ago, but the Lower Manhattan Historical Society launched an effort to revive the holiday Downtown in 2014.

 

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