Abandoned: The Once World-Renowned Girl Puzzle on Roosevelt Island

Abandoned: The Once World-Renowned Girl Puzzle on Roosevelt Island

The abandoned Girl Puzzle – add it to the long list of RIOC negligence plaguing the unfixable state agency running Roosevelt Island. Despite a steady wave of lawsuits and investigations, the state agency cruises along as if made of Teflon. Nothing changes, no matter what or why. Amanda Matthews‘s sculpted artwork deserves better.

by David Stone

The Roosevelt Island Daily News

Setting the Stage

Joining Amanda Matthews at the ribbon-cutting, historian Judith Berdy (L) and RIOC President/CEO Shelton J. Haynes (R).

Less than two years after the acclaimed monument stood out for the world with its ribbon-cutting, RIOC sent this “advisory:”

Roosevelt Island Community:

Please be advised that the Nellie Bly monument at Lighthouse Park will be inaccessible to the public beginning 9/5/23 through 9/29/23 due to warranty related maintenance and repairs. An outside firm will be doing concrete remediation work, including performing crack repairs and sealing the plaza. Work will be performed weekdays between the hours of 7AM and 4PM.

Thank you for your understanding.

-RIOC Grounds and Capital Planning

Already, Team RIOC forgot the monument’s name. The Girl Puzzle, abandoned without its name, was inspired by Nellie Bly’s pioneering journalism. Yet, there was something worse hiding behind the casual notice.

That is, poor original concrete work on the foundation demanded the fix. The state agency that never gets it wrong was informed at the time, according to reliable sources, and did nothing.

(Note to RIOC: “Remediation” refers to environmental work, not poorly executed public projects.)

The Abandoned Girl Puzzle

The notice has now come full circle, turning from deceptive public notice to official abandonment. The Girl Puzzle did not reopen on “9/29/23” as promised. In fact, some time ago, the work stopped, apparently in mid-stream.

There was never any follow-up “advisory” from RIOC, and the flawless state agency does not respond to local media requests.

Here’s how it looks, right now, as we head toward winter…

Protective fencing has been torn down, left behind when workers last went home, the work unfinished as you can see below.

Patches covered with blue tape and plastic wrap protecting one feature base… The blue patches were already in place when we last visited, over a month ago.


Standing in contrast is other work aimed at improving Lighthouse Park.

One among dozens of young trees planted in Lighthouse Park. The efforts are led by historian Judith Berdy.

Resident-led projects, like natural gardens maintained by iDig2Learn and the tree plantings, stand out amid signs of severe RIOC neglect.

Soil retention walls crumble in plain sight, and since claiming all the credit for others’ work, RIOC has done nothing to promote the historic lighthouse.

And while residents vie for the chance to be next in line with complaints and appeals, Governor Kathy Hochul, who ultimately runs RIOC, appears either unwilling or unable to make any changes.

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