Volume 17 • Issue 37 | February 11 - 17, 2005

Quakers explore bringing ‘Peace Pole’ to Downtown

By Divya Watal

The Downtown New York chapter of the Religious Society of Friends, a Quaker organization, recently proposed the installation of a “Peace Pole” in Lower Manhattan.

Although their idea was well received at the Community Board 1 Arts and Entertainment Task Force meeting last month, concerns were raised over having religious symbols in public spaces.

“[The pole] would be a reminder to the general public to take a moment and reflect on what might be,” said Glenn Reinhart of the Downtown Manhattan Quaker Meeting in a telephone interview. Reinhart presented the “Peace Pole” plan at C.B. 1 on behalf of the religious organization.

There are no concrete designs for the pole yet, but according to the Quaker Meeting’s proposal, “A Peace Pole can be a 51/2 ft. wooden pole in various wood colors or painted, possibly more suitable for green and earth exposed spaces. A Peace Pole can also be metal up to 12 ft. tall.”

The Society of Friends has another peace pole in the premises of its Quaker United Nations Office, located at 247 E. 48th St. This peace pole was installed in March 2002.

The proposal called for the pole’s installation in a public space, which is out of the question, said Harold Reed, chairperson of C.B. 1’s Arts and Entertainment Task Force.

“The location has to be outside any public space because of the religious affiliation,” he said.

However, Reinhart disagreed with that interpretation.

“The peace pole is not religious in itself,” he said. “It will say ‘May Peace Prevail On Earth’ in four to 16 languages. It’s not a Quaker icon—we don’t use icons in our religion.”

Nevertheless, Reed said the Society of Friends would have to find a privately owned public space, such as Liberty Plaza or 140 Broadway, for the pole.

The city Parks Department’s Arts and Antiquities division, also rejected the Quaker peace pole proposal, although for slightly different reasons.

“Parks [Arts and Antiquities] has declined to consider peace poles in N.Y.C. parks citing that three previous mayoral administrations have rejected them, and that they are perceived at Arts and Antiquities as ‘mass produced’,” the proposal said.

If they find space, the Quakers will order the peace pole from a Michigan-based company called Peace Pole Makers USA, which boasts having delivered over 200,000 peace poles to 180 countries around the world.

Reinhart said the Peace Pole Committee is running up against several bureaucratic bumps, but that the members are looking into private spaces now.

“We don’t try to dictate to anyone how to act,” he said of the negative reaction to the pole. We just want a simple reminder in Lower Manhattan of what might be, he said.

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