NEW YORK – Transit officials have decided to alter subway station tiles that have a cross-like design similar to that of the Confederate flag.
The Metropolitan Transportation Authority is modifying the tiles at the 40th Street entrance to the Times Square subway stop to avoid any confusion about their meaning, MTA spokesman Kevin Ortiz said in a statement.
"These are not confederate flags" Ortiz said. The red, white and blue tiles installed decades ago are "based on geometric forms that represent the 'Crossroads of the World,'" he added.
The decision comes in the wake of the deadly rally over a Robert E. Lee statue in Charlottesville, Virginia, which has caused communities across the nation to remove Confederate memorials and symbols.
Earlier this week, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and other politicians pressed the U.S. Army to rename two streets named for Confederate generals Gens. Robert E. Lee and Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson on an Army base in Brooklyn. The Army has so far resisted, saying the streets were named for the generals "in the spirit of reconciliation" and to recognize them as individuals, not representatives of "any particular cause or ideology."
Mayor Bill de Blasio has gone even further by announcing plans to conduct a review of all of the city's public art and statues to identify "symbols of hate" for possible removal. The mayor singled out a sidewalk plaque commemorating Nazi collaborator Philippe Petain located on the "Canyon of Heroes" - the 13 blocks of Broadway in Lower Manhattan where ticker tape parades are held - as a likely candidate.
Both Cuomo and de Blasio have also called for removal of busts of Lee and Jackson featured at the Hall of Fame for Great Americans at Bronx Community College.
"Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson will be removed from the CUNY hall of great Americans because New York stands against racism," Cuomo tweeted. "There are many great Americans, many of them New Yorkers worthy of a spot in this great hall. These two confederates are not among them."
The MTA didn't say how the subway station tiles would be changed or when the work would begin.