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B.P. Brewer’s Remarks at Re-Lamping Ceremony for the Eternal Light Monument

Good morning. It is an honor to be here today, on the cusp of Memorial Day weekend, to celebrate relighting The Eternal Light Flagstaff- and the upcoming renovations around the monument.

I want to thank Madison Square Park Conservancy Executive Director Keats Myer, Board Chair Sheila It Davidson, Board Chair Emeritus David Berliner, our borough’s Parks Commissioner William Castro, and Dan McSweeney, President of the United War Veterans Council for all their work to bring the Eternal Light back to life.

And Jonathan Kuhn, Director of Arts and Antiquities for the Department of Parks and Recreation, for his commitment to keeping all our city’s monuments and memorials in prime condition.

I’m proud today that the office of the Manhattan Borough President will be putting $200,000 toward the landscape renovations for the Flagstaff, to help open up the settingg of the monument, and give it more of the prominence it deserves.

The Eternal Light Flagstaff was meant to be a vital marker of the sacrifices of New Yorkers in the Great War.

Dedicated in 1923, it takes us back to a moment when the remembrance of that war was steeped the glow of victory and shadowed by the sacrifices that had been made. And it was meant to reflect the decisive role of the nation in ending the war, and immense pride Americans felt about it.

Today’s wars are fought far away and seemingly anonymously, but the Great War touched the lives of hundreds of thousands of New York families.

Local boys filled the city’s own Division, the 77th or Liberty Division, and the battles inscribed here suggest the scale of our commitment: 1 in 6 of all Americans who fought on the Western Front came from New York.

Among the most honored of all New York regiments, their deeds unacknowledged here in stone, but certainly in spirit, were the soldiers of the 369th Infantry- the Harlem Hellfighters- who just a few years ago were finally honored with their own monument by the people of France, under whose flag they had fought for America when denied the right to carry the American flag.

When the boys came home to New York harbor, the city pulled out all the stops, with the first Armistice Day parade passing right here, our tens of thousands marching up 5th Avenue curb to curb, and New Yorkers packed ten deep to welcome them home.

Madison Square was not the first choice for a memorial, but a natural fit. Farrragut’s monument had stood at the north end of the park for more than 40 years, and General Worth is across the way, interred beneath his obelisk in 1857. At the Worth dedication, Mayor Fernando Wood spoke for all of us today, and for all those we honor, when he said “We have a duty to remind the world that he belonged to us.” So it is with the valorous dead honored here. And let us note that since 1923, that duty and our responsibility to remember has grown much larger.

For that reason such memorials are crafted of the most enduring materials, worked to the highest standards of their time. In a sense, they too aspire to history, and were meant to remain in the thoughts and hearts of New Yorkers forever.

But they also age more slowly than we do but just as fatally, and the way to keep their presence alive is, as we might say about the Eternal Light Memorial, through enlightened preservation.

I look forward to seeing this superb-work and embodiment of our history enhanced and preserved for years to come.

I join you in offering thanks to everyone who made this day possible, to those who are remembered here, and all New Yorkers who will take time to pause and acknowledge the true meaning of this and all other such tributes: “let us have peace.”

Manhattan Borough President Gale A. Brewer issued the following statement on the occasion of Haitian Flag Day:

“I extend my warm wishes for a happy Haitian Flag Day to New York’s Haitian and Haitian-American community. New York City is home to one of the largest and oldest Haitian communities in this country, and I am proud that our city is host to approximately 20,000 of the 50,000 Haitian nationals living in the United States with Temporary Protected Status (TPS).

“Today I sent a letter to U.S. Dept. of Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly, urging the extension of TPS for Haitian nationals, which is due to expire July 2017. With Haiti’s UN military mission winding down and its infrastructure, agricultural sector, and food delivery systems still deeply compromised both by Hurricane Matthew and by the lingering effects of the 2010 earthquake, the United States must not cruelly and haphazardly force tens of thousands of Haitian citizens to repatriate immediately.

“I join Haitian-American community leaders and the Haitian government in urging that TPS be extended for at least 18 months.”

TPS is a designation applied to countries by the Secretary of Homeland Security when those countries are afflicted by conditions that prevent the safe return of their nationals from the United States. More information on TPS, including eligibility requirements, is available at the United States Customs and Immigration Service web site: https://www.uscis.gov/humanitarian/temporary-protected-status#Eligibility%20Requirements.

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