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Cadman Plaza Park

William Jay Gaynor Memorial map_it

History

This text is part of Parks’ Historical Signs Project and can be found posted within the park.

This monument, located on the northern part of Cadman Plaza near the Brooklyn Bridge approach, honors William Jay Gaynor (1851–1913), journalist, lawyer, state supreme court justice, Brooklyn resident, and mayor of New York from 1910 to 1913. The Gaynor Memorial Committee commissioned German-born sculptor Adolph Alexander Weinman (1870–1952) to create the bust of Gaynor flanked by a pair of allegorical bas-reliefs representing law and strength on one side and knowledge and ease on the other. The piece was dedicated in 1926.

The inscription, “Ours is a government of laws not men,” describes Gaynor’s anti-corruption, pro-reform style. Although helped into office by Tammany Hall, which was known for its patronage politics, Gaynor chose not to pay back the political machine with coveted political appointments; instead he assembled a pro-reform government that worked to streamline New York’s bloated civil service system. This cost Gaynor politically; he was the target of an assassination attempt in 1910 and lost the support of Tammany Hall. With the support of a coalition of pro-reform interests, Gaynor pushed for re-election. He became ill during the campaign and died in 1913.

Sculptor Weinman also modeled the bronze ornamentation for the Prison Ship Martyrs Monument (1908) in Brooklyn’s Fort Greene Park, the portrait bust of John Purroy Mitchel in Manhattan’s Central Park (1928), and the statue of Civic Fame (1914) crowning Manhattan’s Municipal Building, his best-known work.

Photo of the William Gaynor Monument in Cadman Plaza Brooklyn

William Jay Gaynor Memorial Details

  • Sculptor: Adolph Alexander Weinman
  • Description: Bust on pedestal in front of a broad stele with paired bas-reliefs; stele is on a platform reached by two steps
  • Materials: Bust and bas-reliefs--bronze; Pedestal, stele, platform--pink Milford granite
  • Dimensions: Bust H: 3' W: 2'8" D: 1'7"; Pedestal H: 4' W: 1' 6 1/2" D: 1'6"; Stele H: 9'10" W: 16'10" D: 6'
  • Cast: 1926
  • Dedicated: 1926
  • Foundry: American Art Foundry, New York
  • Donor: Gaynor Memorial Committee
  • Inscription: Front:
    WILLIAM JAY / GAYNOR / MAYOR OF / NEW YORK CITY / 1910 - 1913 /

    Back:
    WILLIAM JAY GAYNOR / LAWYER JURIST EXECUTIVE / DEFENDER OF CIVIL LIBERTIES / BORN ORISKANY, NY FEBRUARY 23, 1851, DIED / SEPTEMBER 10, 1913, JUSTICE OF THE SUPREME / COURT OF THE STATE OF NEW YORK 1894 TO / 1900 MAYOR OF NEW YORK CITY 1910 TO 1913 / "OURS IS A GOVERNMENT OF LAWS NOT OF MEN" /

Please note, the NAME field includes a primary designation as well as alternate namings often in common or popular usage. The DEDICATED field refers to the most recent dedication, most often, but not necessarily the original dedication date. If the monument did not have a formal dedication, the year listed reflects the date of installation.

For more information, please contact Art & Antiquities at (212) 360-8143

Directions to Cadman Plaza Park

  • A New Walkway
  • Frisbee in the Park
  • Fresh New Ground to Walk Upon
  • Enjoying the Benches
  • Relaxing on a June Day
  • A Game of Frisbee on the Lawn
  • Frisbee in Front of the Memorial

Cadman Plaza Park Weather

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    60°F
  • Mon
    Mostly Sunny
    65°F
  • Tue
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    66°F
  • Wed
    Partly Sunny
    59°F

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