Ansonia to place Martin Luther King Jr. bust in front of City Hall

March 13, 2019

ANSONIA-One of the state’s smallest cities will be the first to honor Martin Luther King Jr. with a large bust outside its city hall.

That’s the location the Board of Aldermen unanimously approved Tuesday night on a motion made by Chicago Rivers, a fifth ward black aldermen.

“This is a high profile spot,” said Mayor David Cassetti. “We get about 14,000 people coming into City Hall every year and another three and a half million driving and walking down Main Street. It’s going to be seen.”

In 1977 New Britain dedicated a white granite bust of Martin Luther King Jr. but placed it in a park on Martin Luther King Jr. Drive and Stanley Street

Cassetti commended the MLK Bust Committee members, the Ansonia Veterans Committee and the Ansonia Fire Department for working together to select an appropriate site.

“Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was the type of leaders that we should all strive to be,” Cassetti told the Aldermen Tuesday night. “I am ecstatic to know his face will meet visitors at the doors of Ansonia City Hall now and for generations.”

An earlier suggestion to place the bust in Veterans’ Memorial Park adjacent to City Hall was met with opposition from Veterans’ groups last year.

At that time Jack Granatie, commander of Gordon-Visselli American Legion Post 50 explained his organization only opposed the location of the bust in a park set aside to honor the memory of fallen veterans.

“The addition of a non-veteran, non-military commemoration will pave the way for future non-veteran monuments,” Granatie explained to the aldermen last November. “We contend that Veterans Park was not intended as a catch-all park for well-deserving people, organizations and causes, and that the only new monuments should be veteran related.”

The end result which will include installing the nearly four foot high bust on a six foot granite base in front of City Hall is “a testament to cooperation,” said David Gatison, chairman of the Deacon’s Ministry at Macedonia Baptist Church and one of the MLK Bust committee members.

“In a world with so much confusion, diversity and hatred, this shows a community can put aside its differences and work together respecting each other for the betterment of all,” said Gatison.

Several committee members including the Rev. Alfred Smith Jr., pastor of Macedonia Baptist Church, Bruce Goldson, a minister at that church, the Rev. Edward Young, pastor of St. Peter and St. Paul Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, Diane Stroman and David Morgan, executive director of TEAM, Inc., the Valley’s community action agency.

The bust was created by Vasil Rakaj, a sculptor with the Valley Arts Council. Rakaj’s works have been displayed in the White House, Buckingham Palace and the Vatican. His Martin Luther King Jr. bust is housed in the Ansonia Armory.

Gatison said he expects the unveiling of the bust to take place later this spring.

That’s because he said a concrete base and footings have to be built to hold the six-foot black marble base and the four-foot bust.

“The last thing we want to do is rush the project and have it turn into a leaning tower,” he said. “The concrete will need time to cure and harden in warmer weather than we have been having.”

Cassetti said there will be an annual ceremony honoring King every April 4 which is the day he was assassinated in Memphis, Tenn.

“We want to get all the Valley schools involved in this,” said Morgan, who heads TEAM. In the meantime, he said the bust committee is hoping to raise about $27,000 in preservation funds for the monuments upkeep. “We’ve got about $10,000 to start it,” he said.

Cassetti said he was not concerned someone might try to vandalize the statue of the fallen civil rights leader despite the growing number of incidents on the Riverwalk, Abe Stone Park and the Ansonia Nature Center..

“Dr. King stood for racial and social equality,” the mayor said. “He believed understanding and love were the key to moving forward as a nation. Why would someone want to dishonor that?”