When traveling on Flatbush Avenue, either to or from the Manhattan Bridge, have you ever looked up and noticed the two spinning ladies greeting passersby?
These two grand dames are Miss Brooklyn and Miss Manhattan, created by the artist Brian Tolle and installed in December 2016 on a median at the intersection of Flatbush and Tillary Street, right across from the approach to the bridge. The sculptures sit atop a slowly rotating 24-foot-tall pedestal and are illuminated at night. Tolle is also the artist behind the Irish Hunger Memorial in Battery Park City.
Tolle’s sculptures are resin replicas of two 20-ton, 12 feet tall, granite allegorical female figures originally created by Daniel Chester French installed in 1916 to guard the Brooklyn gateway to the Manhattan Bridge. French later created the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C.
Miss Brooklyn, wearing a laurel wreath in her hair, is demurely seated with a church steeple and a lyre to her left and a reading child sitting at her feet. Miss Brooklyn holds a tablet with the Dutch inscription “Ein Drach Mackt Maght” (“In Union there is strength”), a nod to Brooklyn’s Dutch roots.
Miss Manhattan proudly sits with her right foot on top of a small chest. A peacock stands by her side as she holds a winged globe in her right hand.
The same model, Audrey Munson, sat for both sculptures, according to the Brooklyn Public Library.
In 1961, Robert Moses filed a request with the Arts Commission of the City of New York to remove both the Manhattan and Brooklyn entranceways to the Manhattan Bridge to make way for his proposed Lower Manhattan Expressway (“Lomex”) on the Manhattan side and an interchange to the BQE on the Brooklyn side. Moses’ plans required the removal of the architectural and sculptural work that had adorned the entrances to the bridge for approximately 50 years because he claimed the artwork was distracting to motorists.
Moses’ “Lomex” plan was ultimately nixed and the Manhattan Bridge’s entryway (on the Manhattan side) was landmarked in 1975 and renovated in 2000. French’s Miss Brooklyn and Miss Manhattan were relocated to the front of the Brooklyn Museum in 1964.
The installation of Tolle’s modern muses was a ten year, $450,000 project. The process was delayed waiting for city approval to install the new statues along the heavily-trafficked corridor, according to Brooklyn Paper.
The Downtown Brooklyn Partnership maintains the upkeep of Tolle’s Miss Brooklyn and Miss Manhattan—cleaning the sculptures regularly, replacing the motors every five years, and switching out the LED lights every 40,000 hours.
[Video by Pamela Wong/BKLYNER]