The Girl Puzzle left to weeds in just six months


When you consider the fanfare with which The Girl Puzzle officially opened, last December, the sorry state of neglect is puzzling. Intended as a tourist draw, the work by Amanda Matthews, is now surrounded by weedy, unlandscaped space.

by David Stone

The Roosevelt Island Daily News

The Girl Puzzle, A December Star Forgotten by June

The crowd moved inside the installation after the ribbon was cut in December.

An exciting addition to the Island of Art concept imagined by RIVAA President Tad Sudol and put into play by former RIOC President/CEO Susan Rosenthal, The Girl Puzzle came to life in a narrowing slice of Lighthouse Park.

A big crowd filled the lawn around it for the ribbon-cutting in December. Speaker after speaker praised Matthews’s tribute to Nellie Bly and her influences, and RIOC patted itself on the back.

So, strange it is finding the depressed state of things around the installation, even as summer started bringing tourists.

“It’s like this in a lot of big cities,” said a tourist sitting on the wall housing the sculptures.

She thought it was a New York City project, not the gem of a small community that paid for it.

When told that it just opened in December, she frowned, sighing.

“Oh,” she said.

The Girl Puzzle six months later.

When it comes to public artworks, local governments are notoriously bad at maintaining them. That’s especially so with outdoor sculptures, which require the most care.

The Girl Puzzle is in danger of being forgotten and allowed to deteriorate. RIOC should remedy the situation before it becomes a costly problem.

Why did the neglect of The Girl Puzzle happen?

One possibility is that there was not a clear plan for maintenance and upkeep after the installation was completed. Without a designated budget or staff member responsible for the sculpture, it may have simply been forgotten about in the shuffle of day-to-day operations.

Another possibility is that the neglect is a result of poor planning from the outset. The Girl Puzzle was installed in a narrow slice of Lighthouse Park, which may not have been the best location for a tourist draw. If the sculpture had been placed in a more visible and accessible spot, it might have been easier to keep up with maintenance.

A quick look at the neglected artwork.

Whatever the reason for the neglect, it is clear that something needs to be done to save The Girl Puzzle from further neglect. RIOC should develop a plan for regular maintenance and upkeep, and make sure that the sculpture is given the attention it deserves.

An ungainly collection of untrimmed weeds sprouts along the edges of bare soil patches. Feet away, a natural flourish of wild grasses makes chaos inside what was once a small channel between both branches of the East River.

The future is here to change, but there’s not much stoking optimism about how RIOC will handle the inevitable arrival of graffiti and vandalism.


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