NEW YORK – A Brooklyn firefighter is circulating a petition calling for the Fire Department to drop plans for a controversial statue because the firefighters depicted are not the three men in the photograph that inspired the memorial.
Steve Cassidy, of Engine 236, faxed the petition to firehouses Tuesday asking firefighters to protest the 19-foot-high bronze sculpture based on the Sept. 11 photograph of New York City firefighters Dan McWilliams, George Johnson and Billy Eisengrein raising a flag on a pole anchored in about 20 feet of rubble at the World Trade Center.
The firefighters in the photograph — taken by Tom Franklin, of The Record of Bergen County, N.J. — are all white. But the statue, expected to be placed at Fire Department headquarters in Brooklyn this spring, depicts the firefighters as white, black and Hispanic men.
"The Fire Department has already said they will stand by it [the statue], so we felt we had to go to the mayor," Cassidy said. He said the petition would be sent to Mayor Michael Bloomberg at the end of the month.
The mayor's office declined to comment on the petition.
The $180,000 piece is being paid for by Forest City Ratner Companies, which owns the property.
A clay model of the statue, created by StudioEis in Brooklyn, was unveiled on Dec. 21. Studio director Ivan Schwartz said the decision to portray different races was made by the Fire Department, the property owners, the studio and the foundry.
Fire Department spokesman Frank Gribbon has said a statue representing firefighters of different races more accurately represents the 343 department members killed in the attacks.
Both Schwartz and Gribbon said the statue, while based on Franklin's photograph, was not meant to be an exact replica.
"Given that those who died were of all races and all ethnicities and that the statue was to be symbolic of those sacrifices, ultimately a decision was made to honor no one in particular, but everyone who made the supreme sacrifice," Gribbon said.
But many current and former firefighters and their relatives were upset by the statue, calling it political correctness run amok and an attempt to rewrite history.
"They're rewriting history in order to achieve political correctness," said Carlo Casoria, who lost his firefighter son, Thomas, in the Sept. 11 attacks. "Those people did that because they wanted to make a statement and they should get credit for that."
The United Retired Firefighters Association had yet to decide whether to circulate its own petition protesting the statue, spokesman John Gilleeny said Tuesday.
Gilleeny said the group was also looking into whether it could raise money to fund a statue that more precisely replicates Franklin's photograph.