By Chris Michaud
NEW YORK (Reuters) - A New York Congressman is calling for the removal and sale of a statue that once graced City Hall park, saying it is ugly and sexist.
Anthony Weiner, who represents parts of Queens and Brooklyn, called on city officials to remove the decaying statue, entitled "Triumph of Civic Virtue," from its pedestal near Queens' Borough Hall, rather than spend thousands to have it repaired.
"Mayor (Fiorello) LaGuardia had it right when he banished this offensive statue from City Hall Park," Weiner told a news conference on Friday.
"Queens residents don't want this sitting in our back yard any longer," the Democrat said, adding the statue "is neither civil nor virtuous, and it's time for it to go."
The statue by sculptor Frederick MacMonnies depicts a nude male figure standing atop two women who represent evil sirens.
Weiner, who was joined by local women's groups, suggested the piece be removed and sold on Craigslist to raise funds.
"Civic Virtue" has caused controversy and drawn criticism virtually since its inception, with feminists protesting its unveiling in 1922.
An article from the same year that ran, oddly, in "Popular Mechanics," noted the recently installed piece had been drawing criticism from women and others.
"It ain't art to have a guy stepping on a girl's neck that way," the article quoted "a youthful onlooker" as saying.
Nearly 90 years later, and 70 years after its relocation in Queens, Weiner concurred.
"It's sexist. It's ugly," he wrote in a letter to city officials, going on to describe it as "an eyesore that depicts a nude man standing triumphantly atop two women at one of the busiest intersections in Queens."
While Weiner said his effort stemmed from ongoing public complaints, the work has its defenders.
A "Restore Civic Virtue" page on Facebook has 132 members and calls for its restoration and preservation.
The page's administrator blames the deterioration on fiscal priorities and the female Queens borough president's dislike of "the theme of a strong, muscular, heroic man overcoming temptation represented by two female sirens representing Corruption and Vice."
(Editing by Jerry Norton)