NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – Historic sculptures and war memorials meant to honor the people and events that helped shape our city sit languishing, stashed away behind a fence at one of the city’s busiest parks.
A 1909 sculpture of Italian explorer Giovanni da Verrazzano, the discoverer of New York Harbor, now looks like it’s seen better days.
The Coast Guard Memorial, honoring those who served during World War II, now sits in a disintegrating crate.
The once-proud families of the Veteran Wireless Operators, who went down with their ships, may be saddened to see what their monument looks like now.
“It’s basically a graveyard; it’s basically a dumping ground for these statues,” President of the NYC Park Advocates Geoffrey Croft told CBS2’s Kristine Johnson.
Croft said he’s outraged the priceless works of art, many of which memorialize people who gave their lives for this country, are lying at Battery Park seemingly forgotten.
“This is disgraceful; it’s laying on its back with hoses and chairs and garbage,” Croft said.
Andre DiMino — president of UNICO—one of our area’s largest Italian American organizations — is also frustrated, especially with the Verrazzanno statue’s condition.
“That’s really a shame,” he said. “Such an important and prominent figure relegated to what looks like a pile of garbage.”
And it’s not just the condition of the monuments and statues that have people concerned. It’s also the amount of time they have been at the park — 10 years behind a temporary fence.
“I can fully understand why anyone would be alarmed to see them as they are at this moment,” said author Cal Snyder, an expert on war memorials.
But despite how they look, Snyder said the monuments were constructed to withstand harsh elements and there is no harm in storing them outside.
“What we have here are works in granite and in bronze — a real immutable material,” he said.
Park officials tell CBS2 it’s all part of a larger plan.
“Ten of the monuments are actually being relocated as part of this project,” said Jonathan Kuhn, Director of Arts and Antiquities for the Parks Department.
Kuhn said the monuments were always supposed to be housed in the park temporarily while the park undergoes a massive renovation.
But no one anticipated it would take this long.
“There have been few things that have been in play, notably Hurricane Sandy,” he said.
“All the king’s horses and all the king’s men will be put back together again,” Kuhn joked.
Park officials say they maintain regular communication with various groups that venerate the monuments, including the Italian American Museum and others.