A war of words that caused a chain reaction of controversy appears to have subsided for now, as plans to relocate a memorial to those slain during WWII-era Poland have ended with an agreement that will move the statue memorializing that history to a new park along the Jersey City waterfront.
Last week, Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop sparked a debate about the future of the Katyn Memorial, a 34-foot tall bronze statue that depicts a bound-and-gagged soldier being stabbed in the back by a bayonet. The memorial, a staple of the plaza outside the Exchange Place PATH station since 1991, commemorates the massacre of over 22,000 Polish prisoners in 1940.
Jersey City, in partnership with the Exchange Place Alliance Special Improvement District, was seeking to move the memorial during a $5 million renovation of the plaza that would add green space and recreational areas. Fulop’s tweets about current Polish officials and their reactions to the move were highly critical, and he later clarified that the statue would be permanently moved to a location several blocks west outside of the Post Office.
Two lawsuits were filed over the relocation plans, with one arguing in Federal Court that Fulop “has unlawfully sought to usurp the City Council’s authority and move the Katyn Memorial without any public input.” The mayor than tweeted the actual plans for the Exchange Place plaza renovation last Thursday, which hadn’t been released publicly before then.
A protest took place over the weekend over the Katyn Memorial’s removal, but cooler heads have prevailed among decision-makers on the matter. Earlier this week, Fulop and several Polish officials held a press conference announcing that the Katyn Memorial will be moved to York Street along the waterfront. As part of the deal, a second park with green space will be renovated as a partnership between Jersey City and the Polish government.
Fulop then tweeted a rendering of the new plaza that will surround the Katyn Memorial. Under the plan, the city will convey the new parkland to the Polish Counsel under a 99-year lease agreement via a new ordinance, which will be voted on by the city council at their next meeting on May 23.
Some in the public crowd jeered the announcement during Monday’s press conference and several local officials, including Councilman Rich Boggiano, remain against the move. Despite some questions being raised about transparency and how much sway developers have over city hall, both the moving of the statue and the park renovations are scheduled to commence construction this summer if the ordinance is approved by the council.
While the process to get here has created opportunities for criticism, the spruced-up green spaces in Exchange Place should come in handy in the future. Also via Twitter, Fulop announced that Jersey City’s 4th of July celebration, which had to be moved from Liberty State Park last year following a state government shutdown, will be permanently moved to Exchange Place going forward starting this year.