How Is This Legal?
Things have a way of popping up in Southampton. One day, something appears, and you wonder “Where did that come from?” and “How is it legal?”
The newest surprise is a 12-foot statue depicting the founder of Dan’s Papers, Dan Rattiner, as a parody of the Statue of Liberty. It sits on the north side of Montauk Highway in Water Mill, next to the Audi dealership.
Did the town actually grant permission for it? If not — then what is it doing there?
Perhaps someone thought it would be allowed, since another Dan statue — he’s riding a lobster — has resided up at the intersection of County Road 39 and Hills Station Road for some time.
If the town did permit the Liberty statue, what were they thinking? That a parody of the icon of freedom of the United States is funny, cute or appropriate?
Perhaps the town needs a refresher course in the history of the real Liberty. The copper statue, a gift from France in 1886, is a figure of the Roman goddess of liberty, “Libertas.” She wears a classical gown, and in her right hand she holds a torch, and in her left is a tablet upon which is the date of the Declaration of Independence. At her feet lie a broken shackle and chain, to commemorate the abolition of slavery. She serves as a welcoming sight to immigrants arriving to the United States.
In contrast, “Liberty Dan’s” right hand holds up a replica of the Montauk Lighthouse, while in his left hand is a tablet saying “Dan’s 60,” a reference to Rattiner’s own newspaper being founded 60 years ago. I have not been close enough to the Water Mill statue to see what lies at his feet. Hopefully, not a shackle and chain.
I have also wondered whether the real Dan knows, or cares, about the two statues in his likeness. Well, in last week’s edition of Dan’s Papers, Mr. Rattiner wrote an article, in his typical tongue-in-cheek style, in the form of his statues “emailing” each other. No mention was made of who erected them or why — perhaps as a permanent “advertisement” for the newspaper, of which Mr. Rattiner is still a partner?
Once again, how is this allowed? It seems to me that while the real monument welcomes immigrants and visitors alike to a land of freedom, Dan’s statues welcome visitors to the East End, to what has become a land of greed and commercialism.
How are these statues allowed, and why are they tolerated? Does no one remember Larry Rivers’s famous “Legs” controversy — structure vs. sculpture? Legal or illegal?
Linda McLane Euell
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