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Busts Of Confederate Generals To Come Down At Bronx Community College

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- On the campus of Bronx Community College, you can take a walk through time, staring into the faces of leaders who paved American history.

But two of the bronze busts that adorn the Hall of Fame for Great Americans are about to be taken down.

"What we have is a symbolic gesture of hate, at the very least, hurt," said city Councilman Fernando Cabrera (D-14th).

After requests from community members such as Cabrera, the college president said the school will be removing and replacing the busts of confederate generals Robert E. Lee and Thomas Jonathan "Stonewall" Jackson.

"History can repeat itself and it's just, I think it should be taken down," said student Nina Vasquez.

"Based on what's going on in our society, I feel it's right to do," said student Faham Adisa.

In Brooklyn, there is also controversy about St. John's Episcopal Church removing two plaques honoring Lee.

Bishop Lawrence Provenzano, leader of the Episcopal Diocese of Long Island, told Newsday the descendants of former slaves should not walk past what they believe is a church building and see a monument to a Confederate general, WCBS 880's Marla Diamond reported.

"It doesn't do the church its mission any good to allow this to remain in place," said Provenzano, who said the plaque was brought to his attention by a candidate for City Council. "Some may think it's not a big deal that we remove this sign. We think it's a really big deal. It is an outward invisible expression of our commitment to stand with all of God's people."

Reaction among local residents was mixed.

"It's history, like or dislike, there are many parts of American history I don't like," a woman, named Joyce, said.

The larger of the two plaques was placed outside St. John's Episcopal Church by the United Daughters of the Confederacy in 1912. It commemorated the spot where Lee is said to have planted a tree while serving in the Army at Fort Hamilton in New York in the 1840s, two decades before he became commander of the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia.

The plaque marked a tree that was a descendant of the one Lee is believed to have planted. A second plaque made note of that. Workers used power tools to remove them Wednesday.

Meanwhile, Gov. Andrew Cuomo is also seeking to have confederate names removed from the streets of Fort Hamilton in Brooklyn.

Cuomo tweeted the following Wednesday afternoon:

The governor also sent a letter to Acting Army Secretary Ryan D. McCarthy, saying:

"The streets - Stonewall Jackson Drive and General Lee Avenue - are named for leaders in the Confederate army who fought to protect slavery.

"Given the events of this week, including the violence and terrorism perpetrated by white supremacists in Charlottesville and the resulting emboldening of the voices of Nazis and white supremacists, I now strongly urge the U.S. Army to reconsider its decision and I call on them to rename these streets.

"The events of Charlottesville and the tactics of white supremacists are a poison in our national discourse, and every effort must be made to combat them.

"Symbols of slavery and racism have no place in New York. In our state, we condemn the language and violence of white supremacy in no uncertain terms. Unlike President Trump, we stand together to say that there are not many sides to hatred and bigotry; they do not belong in our communities and must be denounced for what they are. Renaming these streets will send a clear message that in New York, we stand against intolerance and racism, whether it be insidious and hidden or obvious and intentional."

Mayor Bill de Blasio also tweeted Wednesday afternoon, saying the city will "conduct a 90-day review of all symbols of hate on city property."

In Baltimore Wednesday, crews took down Confederate statues around the city this week. And in Durham, North Carolina, several people were arrested for toppling over a statue of Lee.

The movement to remove the monuments comes on the heels of an eruption of violence in Charlottesville, Virginia. On Tuesday, President Donald Trump remarked on the protest and the removal of the statues, saying not all the participants were neo-Nazis or white supremacist and some just "wanted to protest the taking down of a statue, Robert E. Lee."

"So this week it's Robert E Lee, I notice stonewall Jackson is coming down. I wonder is it George Washington next week and is it Thomas Jefferson the week after?" he added.

Trump has taken heat for his response to the clashes in Charlottesville and saying "both sides" were to blame.

Violence broke out Saturday in Charlottesville after a loosely connected mix of white nationalists, neo-Nazis and other far-right extremists assembled to protest the city's decision to remove a towering statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee.

Authorities said Heather Heyer, 32, was killed when a man plowed his car into a crowd of counterprotesters. About 1,000 people, including Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, attended a memorial service held Wednesday morning at the Paramount Theater in Charlottesville.

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