Four years ago, Sharon Pandolfo-Perez, who runs The Parkchester Project, reached out to Welcome2TheBronx to inform us about something disturbing: The iconic terracotta statues that adorn the 171 buildings spread across 129 acres in one of the most well-known planned communities in not just The Bronx but New York City were disappearing.
Back then, Pandolfo-Perez estimated that about 10 of the statues had disappeared without mention from Parkchester Condominium as to what was happening to them.
Now, the New York Times has written about these priceless works of art and the number of statues taken down is up to 45.
Growing up in The Bronx, a trip to Parkchester was always magical as I would always seek out these statues, the sentries that guarded this community.
The New York Times reports:
“The complex’s unmatched set of polychromatic terra-cotta ornament — some 500 statuettes and 600 plaques — is, quite literally, being chipped away,” Roberta Nusim, president of the Art Deco Society of New York, wrote to the Landmarks Preservation Commission in November.
The destruction is the result, she wrote, of “sheer carelessness — the kind of carelessness that landmarks designation could prevent. The damage isn’t overwhelming — yet — and there is still time to act, but that time is slipping away.”
And indeed, we agree, that this is a case of such carelessness. Bronxites know from experience that when it comes to landmarks in The Bronx, whether official or otherwise, the city tends to turn a blind eye. Just look at what was done to the landmarked PS 31 several years ago when it was demolished by the city against the will of New York City's Landmark Preservation Commission and that of local residents.
If this development were in Manhattan or Brooklyn, this wouldn't have gone beyond one statue being removed without it being repaired and then carefully replaced back to its original location.
According to Parkchester North Condominium and Parkchester South Condominium, some of the statues needed to be removed in order to repair the masonry behind them and that where possible, the statues have been salvaged and are safely stored away.
There is no question that Parkchester is historically as well as architecturally significant and should be declared a landmark.
This planned community, although originally constructed as a restricted "whites only" city within a city, would eventually become home to a very integrated and mixed community truly representative of the borough.
It is also a mix of renters and home owners as the development is now a condominium offering families the opportunity to affordably own their own homes.
Let's make sure that these magical statues continue to guard Parkchester for generations to come and continue to bring joy to its residents and visitors alike.