Miss Manhattan and Miss Brooklyn Return

The Manhattan Bridge shown at sunset.

Photo courtesy of ccho at Flickr Creative Commons.

In the 1960s, New York’s master builder Robert Moses was charged with making sure that traffic ran smoothly in the ever-growing city, and he did so with a ruthless hand, removing anything he felt was an impediment. One of his casualties, or rather two, were the paired statues of Miss Manhattan and Miss Brooklyn that adorned the entrance to the Manhattan Bridge.

Designed in the early part of the 20th century by Daniel Chester French (the same artist who sculpted the enormous marble figure of Abraham Lincoln for the Lincoln Memorial) the two women stood their sentry position for more than 50 years before being relocated to the Brooklyn Museum for the sake of a wider turning lane.

They’re still there. But something of their spirit is being returned to the Manhattan Bridge.

Designed by Brian Tolle, who also created the Irish Hunger Memorial in Battery Park, two replicas have been installed. Resin, rather than marble, the new statues are illuminated from within and mounted atop a pole where they will rotate slowly. The two are each larger than life-size, approximately 9 feet tall atop their rotating blue pedestals.

Locals, while nostalgic for the old statues, aren’t yet certain about the new installation. Most seem to find the motion unnecessary and even inappropriate, given that both statues were meant to face inwards towards their respective boroughs, not in random and changing directions. They find the glossy white resin off-putting as well.

Nonetheless, the project has reached completion to the tune of $450,000 and a decade of labor. The two statues, Brooklyn reading a book to a child, Manhattan guarding a chest with a peacock, whirl slowly over the daily traffic. Tolle says that a local business group, The Downtown Brooklyn Partnership, has agreed to take responsibility for the maintenance of his artwork for the foreseeable future.

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