Not worthy of honor

Council Member Levin calls for the portrait of New York Governor Horatio Seymour to be removed


A racist campaign

New York Governor Horatio Seymour's portrait is prominently displayed in City Hall. Governor Seymour ran one of the most racist campaigns in presidential history. The campaign's motto was "This is a White Man's Country; Let White Men Rule."

On August 18, Council Member Levin wrote the following letter to Signe Nielsen, President of the New York City Public Design Commission.

I write to you to request that the portrait of New York Governor Horatio Seymour be removed from its position of prominent display at City Hall.

This past Tuesday night, thousands of people gathered at the University of Virginia for a candlelight vigil honoring 32-year-old Heather Heyer. Heather, who was among hundreds protesting white supremacists and neo-nazis, died during an attack attempting to terrorize those speaking out against hate.

Cities across the country, many in former confederate states, are rising to the challenge of building a future without hate. For many communities this means the removal of monuments celebrating figures who promoted racial enmity. This is not to say we should ignore history—we should research, but not revere these individuals.

It was in this spirit that Charlottesville decided to remove a statue of Confederate Army General Robert E. Lee. This decision precipitated a reaction from hate groups whose violent rhetoric and violent actions lead to senseless injury and death. We find ourselves in the midst of a struggle to define the future of our nation. 

This debate is not limited to former confederate states. Racism and hate were not exclusive traits of the Antebellum south. Many in the north shared the beliefs of white supremacy, and an example of this is former New York governor Horatio Seymour. In 1868, Governor Seymour was the Democratic candidate for President against General Ulysses S. Grant. The Seymour/Blair ticket ran perhaps the most racist presidential campaign our country has ever seen. The campaign was marked by open appeals to racism, vigorous opposition to Reconstruction, and intimidation and terrorism in the south by the newly formed Ku Klux Klan. The Seymour/Blair campaign slogan stated their position unequivocally: "Our ticket, Our Motto: This is a White Man's Country; Let White Men Rule."   

In addition, prior to his 1868 campaign, while governor of New York, Seymour denounced the Emancipation Proclamation in horrifying terms, opposed the enlistment of African Americans as Union soldiers, vehemently opposed the draft and is widely seen as having enabled the 1863 New York City Draft Riots, during which the Colored Orphan Asylum was burned to the ground by rioters, and over 100 people were killed, including 11 African American men who were lynched.

Many of the sentiments expressed by Governor Seymour throughout his career are antithetical to everything we in New York City government believe in. And yet at City Hall, as one turns left to walk towards the Mayor's office, there hangs a 105-inch portrait of former Governor Horatio Seymour prominently displayed. While I appreciate the historical significance of the City Hall Portrait Collection and acknowledge that Horatio Seymour was in fact Governor of the State of New York, the prominent placement of this portrait signifies veneration for him. For several years, every time I walk past this portrait I am reminded of Governor Seymour's 1868 campaign motto: "This is a White Man's Country; Let White Men Rule."  We should not be celebrating this man's legacy. 

I believe that some other portrait in the Collection, of a figure with a more constructive legacy to our city and country, would be more appropriate in this location. 

Mayor de Blasio Signs Legislation for Life-Saving First Responder Training

Mayor de Blasio joined by Council Member Stephen Levin, Council Member Vanessa L. Gibson, Michael and Carmen Ojeda, and Robin Vitale of the American Heart Association. 

Mayor de Blasio joined by Council Member Stephen Levin, Council Member Vanessa L. Gibson, Michael and Carmen Ojeda, and Robin Vitale of the American Heart Association. 

CITY HALL―Today, Mayor de Blasio signed a bill that will increase transparency about life-saving training for first responders in cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and the use of an automated external defibrillator (AED).

Council Member Levin introduced the legislation in honor of 11-year-old Briana Ojeda, who passed away after suffering an asthma attack near her home in Brooklyn. The police officer who accompanied Briana to the hospital did not perform potentially life-saving CPR because he said he did not feel qualified to do so. In September, Briana would have celebrated her eighteenth birthday.

“In order to save lives, New York’s finest must receive the highest quality training in life-saving CPR and AED skills,” said Council Member Stephen Levin. “This is a commonsense measure that would help to improve the chance of survival for victims of cardiac arrest. It will ensure that first responders are well-equipped to react with speed and skill so that they can continue to protect and serve New Yorkers.”

In January, the NYPD instituted a new basic life support curriculum, which includes such training as infant and adult CPR, AED use, overdose treatment, and hemorrhage control.  Introduction 83 will require the New York Police Department to publish an annual report on the number of officers and school safety agents who receive high-quality CPR and AED certification to ensure this critical training is ongoing. Today, two NYPD police officers were honored with a Proclamation from the Council for demonstrating the lifesaving power of CPR when they used the skill to rescue an unconscious baby in the Bronx.

“How would you feel if an officer told a frantic mother that she would have to wait for EMS in order to start saving her child’s life, while her child is dying in front of her,” said Carmen Torres, Briana’s mother. “Briana was an 11-year-old baby girl who happened to run into a police officer who couldn’t do CPR. Losing Briana has been a life sentence of depression, anxiety, and a broken heart. By passing this legislation, hopefully no other family will have to endure this pain that will never go away.”

“On behalf of the American Heart Association, I am thrilled at today’s approval of legislation to improve CPR certification for our city’s law enforcement,” stated Melinda Murray, member of the NYC Advocacy Committee for the American Heart Association. “Thank you, Mayor de Blasio and Council Member Stephen Levin for your championship of this important issue.  I lost my only child, my son Dominic, to cardiac arrest when he was just 17 years old. We also look forward to the day the Ojeda family finally secures the passage of Briana’s Law. Our hearts beat in unity for our children who were taken far too soon. We call upon the State Senate to follow the Assembly’s lead and help us make sure no more families experience this tragedy. Let’s pass Briana’s Law during this upcoming session.”           

The Council previously adopted Resolution 1181, calling on the state legislature to pass and the Governor to sign Briana’s Law (A. 4364-A/S.6717), a bill that would require that police officers are re-trained in cardiopulmonary resuscitation every two years and demonstrate satisfactory completion of such training. Briana’s Law has passed the Assembly for four years, but the Senate has failed to move this bipartisan bill forward.

"It is imperative that police officers are adequately trained in the administration of CPR,” said Assistant Speaker Felix W Ortiz. “This easy to learn procedure has been proven to save lives in emergency situations and could have helped save the life of Briana Ojeda and others. The fact that the Police Academy had to reassign a CPR instructor after an officer recently testified he didn't feel confident in his CPR abilities proves the point that NYPD CPR training is inadequate."

“Briana's Law is all about saving lives,”said Senator Jack M. Martins, Senate sponsor of the legislation. “Police officers guard our safety and are often the first ones on scene whenever trouble occurs. Ensuring that the basic first aid training they already receive in the police academy is enhanced and periodically reinforced will help give them greater tools to save lives in situations where every second counts.”

"The American Red Cross is dedicated to saving more lives from cardiac arrest through raising public awareness and supporting educational programs that train more people in CPR," said Josh Lockwood, CEO of the American Red Cross in Greater New York. "Time is of the essence during cardiac emergencies, so the more people and first responders properly trained and certified in CPR, the better the chances of saving a life."

More than 350,000 out-of-hospital cardiac arrests occur at home every year in the United States, with almost 90% resulting in death. However, if CPR is performed within the first few minutes of cardiac arrest, an individual’s chance of survival can be double or even tripled. As such, the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association is supportive of further training for police officers.