Photograph by Joe Reginella

Standing at the edge of the water in The Battery, with the Statue of Liberty just behind it, is a monument dedicated to the crew of the tugboat Maria 120. According to the plaque on the pedestal of the statue, the six man crew and vessel mysteriously vanished from New York Harbor in July of 1977. Perhaps this story doesn’t ring a bell because that summer is better known in New York City for the two-day city-wide blackout or the terrifying crimes of serial killer David Berkowitz. Or perhaps, it’s because it never happened. This fun and farcical memorial, which depicts a longshoreman crewman gazing up at what can be presumed to be an alien spacecraft as an extraterrestrial figure lays at his feet, is the latest public art piece from Staten Island based sculptor Joe Reginella. Reginella’s previous installations include the Brooklyn Bridge Elephant Stampede monument and a monument to an octopus attack on a ferry in Staten Island harbor.

As in his previous work, for the NYC Tugboat Abduction monument Reginella draws from true New York City history to add credibility to the story. The blackout of July 13th was a very real occurrence that happened during the summer of 1977. Many neighborhoods saw a surge in crime and flaws in the city’s infrastructure and emergency preparedness were brought to light. Reginella frames his fictional story in the context of this real life event. In the story of the Maria 120, crewmen were patrolling the waters between Liberty Island and Battery Park when in the pitch blackness, a bright streak of light shot through the night sky and what appeared to be a private aircraft crashed into the harbor. The crew immediately radioed the Coast Guard a distress signal and informed them that they were going to try to tow the crashed vessel to shore. However, when the Coast Guard boats arrived to help, there was no aircraft, and the tugboat Maria 120, as well as her crew, had vanished.

Photograph by Joe Reginella

The tugboat abduction narrative is further enhanced by supplemental material that includes a website, documentary trailer and even souvenirs that you can buy. Reginella and a team of up to a dozen creatives work together for months to bring these stories to life through various mediums. For this piece, the accompanying documentary follows the son of one of the abducted crewmen as he seeks to uncover the truth of his father’s disappearance. Though in the trailer you see this character perturbed by the commercialization of the tugboat “tragedy”- which has spawned a touristy “Harbor Mystery Cruise” and Statue of Liberty abduction tchotchkes – fans should check out the website’s shop, as proceeds from the themed t-shirts and souvenirs help fund these fantastical projects.

The bronze statue and pedestal, which breaks down into four pieces for mobility, weighs a hefty total of around 300 pounds! What is exciting for Reginella is to see the different ways people react to his statues, whether they believe the story is real or not. While people-watching on a windy Sunday in the Battery, Reginella told Untapped Cities that he loves to see when people “get it,” the moment of head scratching as they realize maybe what they are looking at isn’t what it seems. Regardless of whether the story is true, seeing the sculpture creates a fun moment and story to tell friends about, for those who take the time to stop and observe it. The reactions to this sculpture in particular have been very entertaining for Reginella as a lot of people interact with the it by re-enacting the dramatic pose of the longshoreman figure.

Photograph by Joe Reginella

Photograph by Joe Reginella

For a chance to see the monument for yourself, head down to the Battery on a Saturday or Sunday now through November. The monument is periodically on display across from the East Coast Memorial. Dive deeper into the story of the NYC UFO Tugboat Abduction Monument and purchase themed souvenirs here!

Next, check out 62 NYC Outdoor Art Installations Not to Miss in October 2018

 Battery Park, East Coast War Memorial, Joseph Reginella, manhattan, New York City, NYC, NYC Outdoor Art Installations, outdoor art, the battery, UFOs

One Response
  1. I am at the East Coast Memorial right now but don’t see the monument. Is it still up?

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