The Times Union reports:
A quick look at the state’s bill tracking data base on Friday didn’t turn up any bills to rename or take down places or statues that glorified Confederate leaders or slave traders.
But it’s probably just a matter of time.
With the tragic events in Charlottesville, Va., continuing to reverberate, lawmakers starting in January will likely be offering a number of bills or proposals to re-think many of the place names and even landmarks that dot New York State.
“We shouldn’t be burying what happened in the Civil War. It was a part of our history. But I don’t think we should be glorifying the principals of the Civil War and the Confederacy,” Assembly Democratic Majority Speaker Carl Heastie said Friday.
Heastie suggested that depictions of Confederate flags be taken off the large ornate mural over the Capitol’s War Room, which depicts soldiers in various wars that the U.S. has engaged in.
“I’m not an architect. I’m not a designer. I guess getting rid of it would suffice for me,” he said.
Later on Friday, however, a spokesman for the speaker said he had since learned that the flag was part of a narrative portraying how the Union Army defeated the Confederacy at Gettysburg and wasn’t as controversial as he first thought.
No matter, Heastie’s thoughts were a preview to what may be a new topic of debate for lawmakers to engage in when they come back in session this January – whether street names, statues, artwork and even entire communities that evoke the names of historic slave owners should be changed or removed.
That’s already started at the executive level, with Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s call for the U.S. Army to re-name Stonewall Jackson Drive and General Lee Avenue on the Fort Hamilton Army Base in Brooklyn.
Members of New York’s Congressional delegation had earlier made the same request, although it was denied by the Army. But that was before the rioting of neo-Nazis, KKK members and other far right groups last weekend in Charlottesville, where a woman was run over and killed by a white supremacist.
Since then, politicians nationwide have expressed their outrage, which was fueled by President Donald Trump’s failure to quickly disavow the Nazi and KKK demonstrators.
“There’s going to be discussion about it,” said Alice Green, executive director of the Albany-based Center for Law and Justice.
Symbols that conjure old racial injustices have drawn controversy before, and the state Capitol complex is no exception.
Lawmakers a decade ago started removing a Georgia flag with the Stars and Bars from a display at the Capitol. Then-Gov. George Pataki had the flag furled or rolled up calling it a “symbol of hatred.”
The confederate symbol had “very negative connotations,” for African-Americans, Queens Democratic Assemblyman Jeffrion Aubry said at the time.