Kathy DeStefano ordered a symbolic cappuccino, Ginger Miller a cannoli, and nine-year-old Nicholas Miller described the seat as “cold and good” as these three became the first officially to sit down at the DeLauro Family Table.
The controversial granite sculptural tribute to the DeLauro heritage and the spirit of family were unveiled Sunday afternoon.
There was not a protester in evidence among a crowd of 150 people shouting bravos and bravas and waving American flags in Wooster Square Park.
Click here and here for previous stories of how the privately funded sculpture, an idea of Mayor John DeStefano, aroused the ire of a group of Wooster Square neighbors who charged the project was not vetted widely enough by the community.
The sculpture honors former Alderwoman Luisa DeLauro; her late husband Ted, a neighborhood organizer; and their daughter, U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro
At Sunday’s event there was all love, Italian warmth, and no controversy.
Local Italian-American historian Anthony Riccio, who wrote the program for the event, said of Rosa DeLauro: “Compassion, caring for the elderly, she brings forth the best the Italian community offers. She’s the anti-Sopranos.”
The mayor opened his remarks by quoting from Riccio’s text: “The DeLauro family table became a makeshift social service center where neighbors often dropped in unannounced and sat with Ted and Luisa to discuss problems with Social Security, Medicare, housing, immigration rights, citizenship applications, and employment.
“As mayor I proudly accept this table in this place, the right place and right park.”
The sculptural ensemble was draped in a flowing crimson drape and surrounded by pink, red, and yellow chrysanthemums atop several hay bales, as speakers like Valley Community Foundation President Jamie Cohen hit variations on this theme: “We’re here to honor Wooster Square’s soul: The DeLauro Family. My mother calls you her soldier. You are fighting in Washington D.C. for the values important to us.”
When Luisa DeLauro’s name was mentioned, “brava"s emerged from among the American flags. Luisa DeLauro, who turns 98 this Christmas eve, waved to the assembled admirers.
When it was the Congresswoman’s turn to speak, she did so with a trembling of emotion in her voice: “Thanks not for me [alone] but for my mother and father, whose shoulders I stand on.”
DeLauro reviewed emotional highlights of her family’s history, including how her father dropped out of school yet sent his children through college; how he surrounded Rosa with opera and took her to hear Aida at the Met at age 9. “Only Joe DiMaggio was a greater passion,” DeLauro said of her father.
“Those who enjoy this beautiful park,” she said. “Remember the immigrant activists who made this possible.”
Then she called the table and chair sculptural group, designed by local architect Barry Svigals, “timeless.”
Anthony RIccio provided some perspective on the current contretemps over the sculpture: In 1891, Italian-American societies raised the money and proposed the statue of Columbus that now stands in Wooster Square. The city fathers reacted by suggesting: OK, if you must, but put it in East Rock where nobody can see it.
The societies stuck by their guns, saying they had just as much stake in America as anyone else.
The borders of the table and the backing of the chairs contain quotations from the DeLauros. The sculpture’s designer Barry Svigals said you can enter the text running around the border of the table at any point.
At the southwestern corner text taken from an article Luisa DeLauro wrote for a 1933 Democratic Party newsletter begins: “We are not living in the Middle Ages when a woman’s position was merely to serve a master in a home.”
Svigals said that the next line, which Rosa DeLauro quoted in the ceremony, was unfortunately dropped from the table: “Come on, girls: Let’s make ourselves heard.”
I still think it is an eyesore…much like if King John was to build his likeness on the green in New Haven! However, if it brings that big a smile to an elderly Luisa DeLauro’s face let’s hope they at least made the jagged rock ledge that it sits on WHEELCHAIR ACCESSIBLE!!!
posted by: Curious on October 24, 2011 9:10am
You’ll notice that woman has to sit on the very edge of the chair, and it’s STILL not functional. A real tribute would have been functional, and not ugly.
Was this celebration announced, or kept quiet? That would explain why there were no signs of protest.
posted by: Paul Martin on October 24, 2011 11:15am
People are now disappointed they didn’t have enough lead time to protest at this event?
You need to find better things to do with your time.
posted by: WaltC on October 24, 2011 7:04pm
I remember Luisa as an Alderman
Do not know father
Do not like Rosa or the design.
Should have conferred with Wooster Square neighbors,
posted by: Nordberg on October 25, 2011 2:26pm
“Was this celebration announced, or kept quiet? That would explain why there were no signs of protest.”
It was announced with enough time for the “Occupiers” or any other concerned citizens to make their way to Wooster Park for a protest.
Sadly, my guess is that such people still think that Democrats are “better” than Republicans, and decided that a protest was not necessary. It would have been a GREAT opportunity to protest. Sadly, people thought it was just the aesthetic issue rather than the real issue: Political Patronage and Corporate Greed. Yeah, it’s all related. Would have been good to show the Republicans that we are sick of ALL corrupt politicians. (That’s what all politicians are).
posted by: christopher schaefer on November 1, 2011 3:36pm
Bonnie Rosenberg, who collected 160 signatures of residents opposing this ugly monument, recently sent him the following letter:
Dear Mayor DeStefano,
I, too, like so many others would like to comment on your message “regarding the neighborhood’s overwhelming opposition to the DeLauro Family Table Project”. The specific questions posed by Mr. Kyle Dugdale in a response Oct. 17, 2011 address the heart of my concerns and need not be reiterated here. However, with only a week until Election Day I await your answers to those 5 queries.
Although with difficulty, I continue to believe in the democratic process and, therefore, volunteered to gather hard copy petition signatures to stop the monument from being placed in Wooster Square Park. The total number of signatures currently stands at 160. What you probably don’t know is that for every signature I collected there are another 1-2 persons in agreement who couldn’t sign. Their reasons are important to note: “may compromise me personally or professionally” because I serve on a city commission or I work in a city department or I work for a business that does business with the city or I work for a non-profit agency – all afraid of personal, professional or financial retribution. As I canvassed I heard this exact disturbing quote more than once, “the mayor is vindictive and has a long memory”. I was stunned to realize that fear was preventing neighbors from standing up for what they believe in! So the 160 signees are really representative of hundreds in our relatively small historic community.
The property owners of Wooster Square generate millions of dollars in tax revenue for the city each year and ask for comparatively little in return. In reference to your comment regarding this project going through the same process as all city parks: there is, or should be, a distinction between the modification process to “historic landmark parks” and all other city parks. Such is the case of clear distinction between modifications for historic district homes versus non-historic homes in the city. The idea of putting the onus on us to form yet another group to secure funds for our city park feels like a large burden. You mentioned park conservancy groups for East Rock Park (427 acres) and Edgewood Park (240 acres). Wooster Square Park is 6 acres in size and the community has always been actively engaged in its up-keep. You might enjoy knowing that we have 4 “regulars” that have each adopted ¼ of the park to rake, prune and maintain flowerbeds - two on a daily basis and two on every available weekend. In addition, we have a knowledgeable “tree expert” as a neighbor who, among other things, arranges our participation with URI each year and links us to the Elm City Conservancy. The rest of us continually pick up trash left behind by outside park visitors and gather downed branches to pile at the entrances to ensure city removal. For the last two years a board member of the Historic Wooster Square Association has initiated and organized, along with proper certificates of insurance and city union clearance, an outside contractor to “lime” the park. Not in the city budget, it was paid for by the HWSA - $1000 in 2010, and $800 in 2011.
In closing, I heard the rhetoric and fanfare surrounding the dedication of the DeLauro Monument from my living room and watched the crowd of DeLauro family, friends and project participants pile into their cars and leave to go home – elsewhere. For those of us who actually live here, this will forever be a bitter reminder that politicians’ voices can be louder than ours – democracy?