23 May 2008

Homeless Monuments at Battery Park

At the edge of the Battery Park playground near the Staten Island Ferry Terminal, fenced in near a small Parks building, are two sad marble monuments that were some time ago uprooted from their natural resting places. They are now encircled by a chain-link fence and hundreds of stacked chairs.

One is very clearly a monument to Coast Guard members who served during World War II. The second is harder to decipher. Many chairs block the English inscription on one side, but the Italian writing on another side is clearly visible. It seems to be in honor of the explorer Giovanni Da Verrazzano, the man who gave his name to our bridge. There are news records of a Verrazzano monument being dedicated in Battery Park in 1909, and that is the date on the stone. A torso-up sculpture of the explorer, created by Ettore Ximenes, once sat on top of the stone. It was apparently removed from its place where the Liberty Island boats are launched sometime in the 1930s, and then stored. When its existence was rediscovered, it was brought into the light again and placed once more in Battery Park.

The Parks Department currently shows a picture of the monument in its former place with no explanation as to why it's be displaced. It also shows the Coast Guard monument in its former location, near the Southern entrance path to the park. It was dedicated in 1955 and also once had a statue atop the stone. This , however, contains an explanation: "The memorial has been temporarily placed in storage to accommodate the redesign of Battery Park and the construction of the South Ferry subway station, and will be placed on Heroes Walk at State and Pearl Streets near the Coast Guard Building. It is anticipated that this work will take place around 2009."

"Storage"? "2009"?

It's one thing to temporarily place unnecessary or inconvenient statues in monuments in warehouses for a time. It's another thing to let them sit out in the open among chairs and junk, so the public can readily witness how little the Park Department thinks of them.

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