'Fearless Girl' Gets an Approval Plus Love Fest from Landmarks Commission

"Fearless Girl" on Broad Street, where it has stood opposite the New York Stock Exchange since 2018. First installed near Bowling Green, facing "Charging Bull," in 2017, it became an instant celebrity with tourists. Photo: Carl Glassman/Tribeca Trib

Dec. 15, 2021

“Fearless Girl” had nothing to fear from the Landmarks Preservation Commission.

At a hearing on Tuesday, the commissioners not only granted the owners of the popular statue their requested three-year extension on Broad Street, where “she” defiantly faces the New York Stock Exchange, but lavished it with the kind of praise befitting a true city landmark.

“Personally, it is thrilling to have a role in the presence of ‘Fearless Girl,’ said Landmarks Commission chair Sarah Carroll, who like others on the panel lauded the 4-foot-bronze child as an inspiring symbol of gender equity.

“I would be devastated if this impudent little girl walked away,” said Commissioner Frederick Bland. 

The commission was unanimous in granting the statue’s owners, State Street Global Advisors, an extension to its permit, which expired on Nov. 29. (This marks its fourth permit extension.) But Carroll made clear that the commission has no purview over aesthetics. Instead, she said, it should be judged like the bollards, benches and anything else that has been proposed for the area’s historic street grid, which is the only remaining above-ground physical evidence of the Dutch Colonial presence in Manhattan. 

The Public Design Commission (PDC), which has say over art on city-owned property, is yet to rule on the aesthetic appropriateness of “Fearless Girl” on its current site. State Street and the Department of Transportation have applied to the PDC for a permit, but it is unclear when a hearing will be held.

The artist of “Fearless Girl,” Kristen Visbal, testified in support of her work remaining on Broad Street. While restating her offer to donate a casting of the statue for permanent placement elsewhere in the city, she also called on officials to install a plaque on Broad Street that “incorporates all the figure stands for,” such as equal pay and universal education for women. State Street, on the other hand, has used “Fearless Girl” as part of its campaign for gender diversity on corporate boards. 

But the company also has been accused of using the statue to burnish its image. The firm had agreed to pay $5 million “mostly to settle claims that it discriminated against 305 top female employees by paying them less than men in the same positions,” according to The New York Times.

That troubled Commissioner Michael Devonshire. “If it’s being used as a billboard do we need to look at it in a different way?” he said. “Because they’re getting juice out of this thing.” 

But such matters rest with the Public Design Commission, Carroll responded. And besides, the love fest for “Fearless Girl” overwhelmed any negative sentiment expressed at the hearing.

“It always brings a smile to my face,” said Commissioner Anne Holford-Smith.  “And I hope it inspires many young girls to grow up and be fearless women.”