Amid a push among New York City lawmakers to remove what Mayor Bill de Blasio called “symbols of hate” around the city after last weekend’s deadly white nationalist demonstrations in Charlottesville, Virginia, the MTA has announced that it will change tile work in the Times Square subway station that some say resembles a Confederate flag.
The tile, found at the 40th Street entrance near the 1, 2, and 3 trains, was first brought to the public’s attention by the New York Post in 2015. At the time, the Post noted that the tile work, done by Squire Vickers in 1917, was intended to honor The New York Times’s original publisher Adolph S. Ochs, who had “strong ties to the Confederacy,” per a historian.
The MTA disputes that interpretation of the tile work—which has a blue X on top of a red background with a white border—saying that it’s instead intended to represent Times Square’s nickname as “The Crossroads of the World.” The Times also looked into it, and columnist David Dunlap’s reading proved inconclusive.
Still, the agency said this week that it would change the tiles; an MTA spokesperson told the Post that “These are not confederate flags, it is a design based on geometric forms that represent the ‘Crossroads of the World’ and to avoid absolutely any confusion we will modify them to make that absolutely crystal clear.”
Earlier this week, the De Blasio administration said that it would conduct a 90-day review of “symbols of hate” on city property, with “relevant experts and community leaders” weighing in on whether monuments and other markers should be removed. Already, tributes to Confederate general Robert E. Lee have come down in the Bronx and Brooklyn.