The girls are back in town!
The city has finally replaced the “Miss Brooklyn” and “Miss Manhattan” statues that graced the entrance to the Manhattan Bridge for the first half of the 20th century — unveiling rotating, light-up replicas at Flatbush Avenue and Tillary Street on Wednesday morning, as first reported by the New York Times.
New York’s master builder Robert Moses banished the iconic sculptures in the 1960s because he thought they only got in the way of traffic, said the artist behind the new effigies, but today we rightfully put such public artworks up on a pedestal — in this case, literally!
“Robert Moses saw those sculptures as being an impediment to progress, and the new urban plan is thinking that art is something that would create or enhance an area,” said Brian Tolle. “I’ve been getting e-mails from people who live in the area and are saying, ‘Yay they’re here, I’m so happy, they’re beautiful.’”
Like the original idols — now housed at the Brooklyn Museum — chilled out “Miss Brooklyn” is depicted next to a tree and a child reading a book, while the more hoighty-toighty “Miss Manhattan” sits with her foot on a chest next to a peacock.
But there are also some big differences — the first editions are granite and sat on either side of the once-grand entrance to the bridge, while the new iterations are cast in a gleaming white acrylic and are located on top of a 24-foot pillar sticking out of a median, where they slowly spin around and emanate light at night.
In a troubling development, that means the figures sometimes look toward Manhattan, where they were previously posed permanently in the correct position — with their backs turned on the outer borough.
It’s no surprise then that some patriotic Brookylnites are unsure what to make of these new versions — one said it’s yet to be seen whether they’re great works of art or just gimmicks.
“This may prove to just be one of those stupid things or it could be kind of exciting, fun, and entertaining for the community — I’m hoping it’s the latter,” said Otis Pearsall, a Brooklyn Heights preservationist who sat on a panel that originally approved the project.
The $450,000 project has been in the works for a decade, but was held up waiting for the necessary city approval to install the statues in the middle of heavily-congested thoroughfare, according to Tolle.
“That location is one of the most complicated locations around,” he said.
The new iterations have been in storage for the past two years, waiting for reconstruction of the gateway to the bridge to finish.
But the delays ended up working in the project’s favor, because in the meantime, people invented better-looking, longer-lasting light bulbs and acrylic materials than Tolle had originally planned on using.
“Because we had so many years, different technologies have come into common usage,” he said. “Sometimes things that take a long time benefit from having a long time.”
Local business group the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership will maintain the statues, a task that will involve periodically scrubbing them with soap and water, and replacing the motors every five years and the lights every 40,000 hours, the artist said.