Back in 1981, then-Mayor Ed Koch proposed the release of of wild wolves into train yards to prevent graffiti artists from tagging New York City subway cars. Clearly, it was a different time in New York when street artists were public enemy number one. Koch was convinced that it was a safe plan, reiterating even after pushback that “it is true that no wolf in the wild has attacked a human being in North America.” Only domesticated wolves, you see, were a danger. A little known fact about this policy: Over the past two decades the wolf packs “have survived, even thrived, in New York’s labyrinth of tunnels to emerge in local parks only on occasion to hunt in the moonlight for live prey,” according to a new monument dedicated to the tourists who have gone missing that appeared in Battery Park this weekend. Allegedly, the NYPD chalks up a certain number of missing persons to the wolves each year.
The plaque reads: “Dedicated to the many tourists that go missing every year in New York City. And a reminder as to why the parks close at dusk. Erected by the Ed Koch Wolf Foundation and the NYC Fellowship.”
A corrected plaque, installed after we visited
If you have followed our coverage of a certain Joseph Reginella over the past four years, you’ll know where this is going. This is the fourth in a series of hilarious sculptural hoaxes that the Staten Island sculptor takes over to Battery Park to trick tourists (and some locals, no doubt). The first was a monument to a giant octopus that attacked the Staten Island Ferry (gone unnoticed because it happened on the same day as the JFK assassination). A year later was a monument to an elephant stampede on the Brooklyn Bridge. Then a UFO abduction of a tugboat during the Blackout of 1977. “Basically what I am doing is I am creeping into these people’s minds. They are gonna go home to wherever they are from, they google it: ‘Ed Koch releases wolves,’” Reginella told us this past weekend as he gleefully watched passersby take in the sculpture.
Each of his sculptures is accompanied by a a website, video PSA which provides historical “evidence,” with a voice-over narrative in an official, documentary-like tone, and an informational handout if you visit in person. The stories are nearly believable, because they are all rooted in some historical origin or framed by a real-life event, be it the actual stampede that happened when the Brooklyn Bridge opened, the real blackout of 1977, the assassination of JFK. Though he thought last year’s UFO abduction would be his last work, “I just couldn’t leave well enough alone after The NY Times dubbed me the Banksy of monuments,” he tells us.
We’re glad Reginella’s flair for parody is back. This year’s monument is not only inspired by Ed Koch’s stranger-than-fiction wolf proposal, but also a sculpture Reginella made for Ed Koch back in 2000 — it was of Rudolph Giuliani as a “1950s style movie monster.” Reginella was invited to visit Koch and take a photograph with the sculpture, and the former mayor wrote a note: “Thank you for the sculpture of Mayor Giuliani. You really captured his spirit.”
Reginella with Ed Koch and the sculpture bottom right. Photo courtesy Joseph Reginella.
“I chose this location because of the wave of people,” Reginella tells us of Battery Park but the monument to the missing tourists will make appearances over the next few weekends in Washington Square Park, Staten Island and in Brooklyn Bridge Park — Reginella brings over the several hundred pound sculpture by cart. Keep your eye out! The sculpture will be back in Battery Park this weekend on Sunday, October 13th.
Next, check out 10 hoaxes, fake buildings, and more that have popped up in NYC. You can see all of Reginella’s urban legends here.