After nearly six hours of public speakers voicing their disapproval of Jersey City moving their Katyn monument, the council finally voted to relocate it after 2 a.m.
But before the speakers even lined up to speak, Ward C Councilman Richard Boggiano made a motion to remove the ordinance to relocate the monument from the agenda, which was seconded by Ward D Councilman Michael Yun.
From there, City Clerk Robert Byrne asked Ward A Councilwoman Denise Ridley to take action on the motion, but she first asked Corporation Counsel Peter Baker about a pending lawsuit filed by the Polish-American community to stop the relocation.
“The court case, is that specifically for the moving of the statue, and let’s say we vote tonight to move or not move the statue, and the court ruling comes down, how does that affect the outcome of tonight’s vote?,” she questioned.
“Without speculating about what the effect of the vote would be one way or the other, I can inform you that the court may reserve decision on June 26, [but] that may not be a final date, number one. Number two, the court proceeding that has been referenced is, yes, in regards to the movement of the statue.”
Boggiano then directed a question to Robert Margulies, an attorney representing the Katyn Forest Massacre Memorial Committee – the committee that reached an agreement to move the monument from Exchange Place to York Street – by asking him what changed after the committee was first opposed to the relocation.
“Tell me why they changed their minds after we met with them? How come all of a sudden there was a change? The people do not want it moved,” Boggiano asserted.
Marguiles responded that 30 years ago the city first wanted to place the monument elsewhere.
“Councilman, the history is that it was originally supposed to go to 75 Montgomery St., but that didn’t happen. What’s important to the committee is that it be prominently displayed and be remembered forever. What this ordinance does, what [the city] hasn’t done before, is perpetually place the monument in a prominent position,” Margulies said.
Boggiano didn’t take kindly to that answer:
“Robert, a prominent position? A prominent position is right where it is, are you kidding?”
One of dozens of public speakers, Alice Wozniak, said she was present to appeal to the council’s “common sense.”
“You have a lawyer representing the [Katyn] Committee who says he has an agreement [to relocate the monument]. Any lawyer worth their weight in gold would follow up with an agreement and have it in writing right away. Where is it in writing? It is not in writing because it doesn’t exist, nor will it ever exist,” Wozniak said.
“You have heard from some people tonight that this relocation is going to cost taxpayers zero dollars. I have never heard of anything ever costing the municipality zero dollars. What will happen is that an agreement will take place, the monument will be moved, the park will be built and guess what, no one has the money to pay for it to be relocated and the infrastructure to support the statue, so it’ll remain locked up in storage.”
Additionally, Slawek Platta, of the Platta Law firm and a candidate for the New York State Senate, had a lot to say to the council, as has been the case for months.
He began by claiming he would read the names of all 22,000 plus individuals who perished in the Katyn Forest during World War II, but not before he was threatened with removal from the council chambers.
Just when it appeared that the number of speakers were winding down into the early hours of the morning, suddenly more speakers hopped in line.
At this time, we asked Platta if that was part of a strategy to delay the council’s vote on the ordinance to relocate the monument.
“No, there was no strategy. What we did is organize the Polish-American community to come and voice their objections. Whoever wanted to come, showed up. We still have a lot of people, even though it is a late hour,” said Platta.
“But I’m very happy that they have all spoken to raise their objection; that is the purpose of this public hearing. And, quite frankly, I’m extremely satisfied that the Polish-American community is so organized and so opposed to moving this memorial.”
Eventually, the council did vote to relocate the statue, albeit it wasn’t until after 2:00 a.m. The measure passed 6-3, with Yun, Boggiano and Ward E Councilman James Solomon voting no.
Interestingly, at the last council meeting Boggiano implied that Solomon was “part of a deal to relocate the monument,” but his vote last night would indicate otherwise.
Over an hour of public speakers on the issue streamed live on our Facebook page and can be seen below: