PROSPECT HEIGHTS – On Friday, Mayor Bill de Blasio and NYC Parks Commissioner Mitchell Silver announced that the City is providing the Prospect Park Alliance $8.9 million to go toward the restoration of Grand Army Plaza, including the historic Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Arch and the landscaped berms that surround the plaza.
The funding will allow the Prospect Park Alliance to fix up the arch inside and out, replacing its roof, cleaning and repointing the brick and stone, repairing the interior iron staircases that lead to the top, and replacing the interior and exterior lighting. The project will also include replanting the landscaped berms around the Plaza, adding new trees, and replacing an existing chain link fence with a shorter steel panel fence. The Prospect Park Alliance will also replace the wobbly bluestone pavement just north of the Arch at the John F. Kennedy Memorial and the Bailey Fountain with granite pavement.
Grand Army Plaza was designed by Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux to serve as the formal entrance to Prospect Park, which celebrated its 150th anniversary last year. The architect John H. Duncan designed the Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Arch, which debuted at Grand Army Plaza in 1892, to commemorate the men who fought with the Union troops during the Civil War. The sculptures adorning the Arch were created by Frederick MacMonnies and include Columbia in a chariot surrounded by two winged Victories at the top representing the United States. Sculptures depicting soldiers and sailors are displayed on the Arch’s pedestals.
During the 1970s, NYC fell on financial hard times and the park suffered from neglect. The Arch was landmarked in 1975 when it was in desperate need of repairs—the figure of Columbia even toppled out of her chariot the following year. Locals began lobbying for the maintenance of the Park. In 1980 Tupper Thomas was appointed the first Prospect Park Administrator and oversaw the restoration the Park including the Arch. Now nearly 40 years later, the Arch is in need of some TLC once again.
“It’s been a great week in Brooklyn talking with residents and listening to their concerns, and there’s no better way to cap off this week than to invest in the borough’s public spaces,” said Mayor de Blasio on the final day of the “City Hall in Your Borough” week in Brooklyn. “Grand Army Plaza welcomes us to Brooklyn’s most beloved park, and with this funding, we can fully realize the beauty of this monument honoring those who have served.”
“I am very delighted that the Mayor has committed these funds to restore this incredible, iconic, landmark here in Brooklyn,” said NYC Parks Commissioner Mitchell Silver. “I would also like to thank, of course, the Borough President who is a key partner and was here when we announced that we’ll now be introducing two new entrances on Flatbush Avenue as part of our Parks Without Borders Initiative, so for the first time the Flatbush Avenue side of the park will have two entrances, one not far from Grand Army Plaza, and the other one just north of the Zoo.”
The restoration of Grand Army Plaza is part of the Prospect Park Alliance’s current improvements to the northeast corner of the Park. Two new entrances to the Park will be installed on Flatbush Avenue—Prospect Park’s first new entrances since the 1940s—as well as new pathways, seating, lighting, and landscaping. A part of NYC’s “Parks Without Borders” program, the new entrances are scheduled to be completed by Spring 2020.