IRVINGTON, NJ — According to Mayor Tony Vauss, an Irvington legend is about to be honored with a statue and renaming of Civic Square after him.
“We do have, coming up on Sept. 29 in front of Town Hall, a statue to be placed in honor of D. Bilal Beasley,” confirmed Vauss on Monday, Sept. 10. “He was a fixture in town and one of the pioneers of good government in Irvington. He’s also my mentor and he mentored … hundreds of other people in town and beyond it.”
But first the Irvington Municipal Council has to pass a resolution accepting the commemorative statue that Beasley’s surviving family members commissioned and paid for with donations.
“The resolution is being voted on by the council at their Tuesday, Sept. 11, meeting. That just happens to be the date that the meeting falls on,” said Vauss. “In order for us to put the statue up, we have to accept the statue from the family. The family paid for the statue, but … council has to pass a resolution accepting it. We’re also looking to recognize and rename Civic Square as D. Bilal Beasley Square.”
Surviving members of Beasley’s family declined to comment about the resolution, statue or Vauss’ plan to rename Civic Square in his honor.
“We will respectfully wait until after tomorrow’s meeting to comment,” said Beasley’s son, Omar Bilal Beasley, on Monday, Sept. 10.
Council President and North Ward Councilman David Lyons also declined to comment on the pending resolution, prior to the Tuesday, Sept. 11, council meeting. He had a sometimes contentious relationship with Beasley and his Team Irvington organization for years, prior to the advent of Vauss and his Team Irvington Strong organization, which Beasley founded.
Elouise McDaniel, president of the Irvington Joint and Nesbit Terrace block associations, confirmed that the Municipal Council is considering passing the resolution to facilitate erecting the statue and to rename Civic Square in Beasley’s honor.
“I spoke on it at the last council meeting,” she said Monday, Sept. 10. “I spoke to someone in Trenton and Sen. Ron Rice.”
Irvington NAACP Vice President Kathleen Witcher, a former ally and Team Irvington member and who served on the Irvington Board of Education and the Irvington Housing Authority Board of Commissioners, said it seems as if the vote on the resolution is just a formality, since it’s apparently already a done deal.
“I received a flier announcing the date of service for Sept. 22, at Civic Square, so I suppose that the town council expects to pass the resolution in tribute of Beasley’s years on the council,” said Witcher on Monday, Sept. 10. “This is very different for Irvington, because many longtime elected officials have served and departed, but were not given a statue or other recognition like this. I wonder if a thought is given about whether this sets a precedent.”
Witcher also said erecting a statue of Beasley seems a bit excessive.
“I would also add that, in several Muslim communities, and Bilal Beasley was a Muslim for several decades, no statues are used, but plaques might memorialize one’s service,” said Witcher. “In Irvington, there have been streets renamed for community servants.”
Vauss said passing the resolution, erecting the statue and renaming Civic Square are all part of his ongoing effort to restore, revitalize and re-energize Irvington.
“The township has already been in the process of renovating the front of Town Hall and we thought this would be a great addition to that ongoing renovation of the front of Town Hall,” said Vauss. “We’re doing everything we can to make Irvington into the kind of township that the residents, taxpayers and citizens deserve and want it to be.”