Two ladies of the harbor: Mother Cabrini finds a home!

John Alexander

December 19, 2019

Originally published in Brooklyn Reporter on December 19, 2019.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has announced that a statue of Mother Cabrini will be erected in Battery Park City facing the Statue of Liberty.

BOROUGHWIDE — The controversy surrounding a memorial statue for Mother Frances Cabrini appears to have finally been resolved with Gov. Andrew Cuomo making good on his promise to find a location for a statue honoring the Catholic saint.

The governor announced Friday that the Mother Cabrini memorial will be located in Battery Park City’s South Cove, in what appears to be the perfect spot for the patron saint of immigrants, where she can gaze across the harbor at the Statue of Liberty.

The governor’s effort came in response to a city initiative snubbing the saint, leaving her off a list of women who would have statues erected in their honor, despite her having received the most votes from city residents in the recent She Built NYC competition.

Following an open call for nominations that the competition’s website said “drew over 2,000 nominations from the public,” the saint received 219 votes, more than twice as many as the second highest vote-getter, urban advocate Jane Jacobs, who received 93 votes, and also was passed over.

After She Built NYC announced a list of honorees that did not include the saint, the Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn, along with elected officials from both sides of the aisle, civic leaders and entire communities voiced their displeasure.

On Columbus Day, the same day the Diocese of Brooklyn sent a float containing a figure of Mother Cabrini down Fifth Avenue in Manhattan as part of the annual parade honoring Italian-Americans, Cuomo announced that a state commission would work with the Diocese of Brooklyn, the Catholic Citizens Foundation and other groups to fund the new statue.

On Friday, Dec. 13, Cuomo announced the location of the statue.

“This memorial will honor the legacy of Mother Cabrini — a great New Yorker and Italian American — and the commission chose a site that perfectly symbolizes her commitment to helping new Americans settle in the United States,” said Cuomo.

“Battery Park City with its views of the Statue of Liberty is a fitting site to honor Mother Cabrini with a statue,” agreed Assemblymember Nicole Malliotakis, a Republican who represents Staten Island and parts of Southern Brooklyn and who called Mother Cabrini, “An immigrant and nun who personally and through orphanages, hospitals and schools founded by her and the religious order she started, touched the lives of hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers and Americans.”

Also happy with the site was State Sen. Andrew Gounardes. “I am glad that New York City, home to immigrants from every part of the world, is one step closer to finally erecting a statue to honor Mother Cabrini, the patron saint of immigrants,” said Gounardes, a Democrat whose district includes Bay Ridge, Dyker Heights, Bensonhurst and Marine Park. “I look forward to seeing a fitting monument to Mother Cabrini’s spirit of welcoming and generosity.”

Democratic City Councilmember Justin Brannan was quick to point out that

the movement to recognize Mother Cabrini with a statue began within his 43rd district in Bensonhurst.

“This was a hard-fought campaign that gained national and international attention. But, make no mistake, it started, small and mighty, right here in the parish of St. Frances Cabrini in Bensonhurst led by Rev. Guy Sbordone,” Brannan told this paper.

“The people of this parish wanted a memorial to honor the legacy of Mother Cabrini, an incredible New Yorker and Italian-American, and that is what they will get,” he said. “In addition, I do believe the commission chose a perfect site, which symbolizes Mother Cabrini’s steadfast commitment to helping new immigrants settle in America. This is a very good day because the people won.”