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Union Square Park

The Daily Plant : Wednesday, May 9, 2007

How Lincoln Was Put Back On A Pedestal

Submitted by Jonathan Kuhn

As the old saying goes, “the darkest hour is just before the dawn.” In the wee hours of Saturday morning, March 31, the sculpture of Abraham Lincoln, dedicated in Union Square in 1870, got more than its share of excitement. A car traveling east on 16th Street steered at high speed by a driver “under the influence,” careened across Union Square West, hopped a curb, battered down the park closure barricade and proceeded another 100 feet before coming to a sudden stop at the monument.

The force of the collision knocked the lower pedestal stone out of alignment by more than four inches, and the stoic bronze statue of Lincoln, by Henry Kirke Brown, rotated three to four inches. Motor oil gushed from the car over the area, and the driver, much the worse for wear, was taken to the hospital with internal injuries. Before the sun had risen over Union Square Park, and Greenmarket was in full swing, Park Supervisor Barbara Vitagliano was on the scene, joined soon by Manhattan Chief of Operations Nam Yoon and Director of Art & Antiquities Jonathan Kuhn to assess the injuries.

Fortunately, the damage was not as bad as might it might have been. There was no permanent harm to the surface or any loss of stone. The area was cleaned down and protected until three days later, when the Monuments Crew, collaborating with Manhattan Forestry Climbers and Pruners, Thomas Ammirato, Miguel Castro and Christopher Martin, mobilized to reset the monument. The sculpture was first rigged and placed on the ground with a boom-lift. Using wooden braces and a front-end loader provided by Parks' Manhattan Garage, the stones were pushed back into alignment—no mean feat for a pedestal described in the 1860s as one of largest ever quarried in the United States. The sculpture was then reinstalled securely on the top. Monuments Conservation Manager John Saunders helped direct this operation, and later over the next couple of weeks--between intermittent April storms--he was joined by Conservation Manager Christine Djuric, APSW John Zimny and CPW Victor Riddick of the monuments crew, to clean the entire monument, rewax the bronze and repoint the broken masonry joints.

Within a matter of days Honest Abe was looking good again, and unsuspecting park visitors would have no inkling of the violence of the collision and the near carnage which had occurred.

Kudos to all involved in preserving one of New York’s most venerable monuments in the face of this vehicular assault.

Written by Jonathan Kuhn

Thomas Stofka Award
Joe Bonkowski

Tom Stofka devoted his career to the direct care and maintenance of New York City’s trees. This year's winner of the Thomas Stofka award shares his technical skill, practical knowledge, and longstanding work to keep trees healthy.

Joseph Bonkowski has been at Parks since 1989. He has moved up the ranks with stints as a CPW, APSW, Park Supervisor, Park Manager, and his current position as Queens Director of Landscape Management.

Joe has been managing the Queens Forestry operation since 2002. Queens has the largest population of trees, as well as the largest forestry division. Joe oversees a staff of 59 that are responsible for block pruning, dead tree and stump removal, monitoring contracts, and even weed control.

Over the past few years, Joe's role in Queens has grown. Queens Forestry now handles the chipping of private residential trees, as well as City trees, through the Asian Longhorned Beetle (ALB) wood waste program. Beetles aren’t the only pest Joe is combating. His crews and contractors are participating in “larviciding” to prevent mosquitoes from spreading the West Nile virus. Joe is licensed in several pesticide categories and serves as a resource to other Queens managers in combating weeds, rodents, and lake algae blooms.

Joe is also advancing our capital efforts in regards to trees. He is helping to ensure that developers do not harm trees by monitoring construction work by other agencies or the private sector. Joe also helped create our new sidewalk repair program, from the early stages of planning, contract writing, and bidding. Currently, over 1,000 sidewalk sites are being repaired by contractors in Queens, overseen by Joe's office.

Thanks to Joe’s efforts, tree servicing has become more efficient. Joe has encouraged productivity amongst crews by posting on the forestry office wall the number of trees removed by each crew each day. This friendly competition is taken seriously by supervisors and climbers, and has spurred accomplishments. Everyone in the large Queens Forestry division, from top to bottom, is expected to be knowledgeable about tree conditions such as broken limbs, types of pruning, root slicings, and to commit themselves to excellent customer service.

Joe, like Tom Stofka before him, is a model Forestry Director and Parks manager. We are proud of his work and of our professional forestry staff whom he represents. Joe lives in Queens and is an avid motorcyclist who enjoys working on his bike in his spare time.

Written by Kamil Krawczyk


“Do not fear to be eccentric in opinion,
for every opinion now accepted was once eccentric.”

Bertrand Russell
(1872 – 1970)

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