In the wake of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s announcement that the city will remove “hate symbols” the MTA has announced that it will modify subway tiles at the Times Square station that resemble Confederate Flags. Here is the thing though, there is no evidence that the tiles have anything to do with the Confederacy.
The tiles, which have a blue X on top of a red background with a white border, were added to the 40th Street entrance near the 1, 2, and 3 trains by Squire Vickers in 1917. The were added to honor the New York Times’s publisher Adolph S. Ochs, who was born in Cincinnati but moved to Knoxville after the Civil War — East Tennessee, by the way was a stronghold of Unionism that attempted to secede from the state of Tennessee when it joined the Confederacy. Still, Ochs had “strong ties to the Confederacy,” Civil War historian Dr. David Jackowe told the New York Post. However, it is worth noting that Ochs fought anti-Semitism and was an executive board member of the Anti-Defamation League. His father fought for the Union and called slavery a ‘villainous relic of barbarism, while his mother was a member of the Daughters of the Confederacy, according to the Times.
The Times actually looked into the meaning of the tiles — which the MTA claims represents Times Square’s nickname as “The Crossroads of the World” — and was unable to draw a clear conclusion one way or the other.
Regardless of their meaning, the tiles will be modified, the agency announced this week.
“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,” the MTA told the New York Post. –Christopher Cameron