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Peekskill Officials Discuss Plans for Sculptures on Riverfront Green

The Peekskill Common Council plans to reach out for for sculpture proposals, including those inspired by the "Wizard of Oz," for the southern section of the Riverfront Green. The sculptures would be part of a list of state funded improvements

There are no lions, tigers or bears on Peekskill’s Riverfront Green.

 And, if the right proposal comes along, there may not even be any sightings of lost girls from Kansas, brainless scarecrows or heartless tin men in the foreseeable future.

The Peekskill Common Council discussed plans to place sculptures on the Riverfront Green South as part of a number improvements to the city’s waterfront that are being funded through an $8.3 million Empire State Development Corp. grant during Tuesday’s board workshop.

 Acting city Manager Brian Havranek suggested Wizard of Oz themed statues along the waterfront to answer the desire of community members to have landmarks connecting the city’s history to the popular movie and book.

Havranek suggested commissioning the statue as part of the riverfront project so costs can be rolled into the state grant. But some Common Council members question if Wizard of Oz themed statues are an appropriate fit for that section of the riverfront.

Councilmember Kathleen Talbot said she wanted to see something more interactive.

“Something that will draw people there,” Talbot said. “I don’t know if this will.”

Frank Baum, the book’s author, attended the Peekskill Military Academy in the late 1860s and many people think the concept for the Yellow Brick Road came from the brick road path that connected the Hudson River to the academy.

Havranek suggested commissioning the statue as part of the riverfront project so costs can be rolled into the state grant. But construction plans are expected to be completed by June and officials don't want the project held up by the sculptures.

Richard Masloski, the man responsible for creating the Lincoln sculpture outside the Lincoln Depot Museum, has already proposed creating life-sized bronze sculptures of the characters from the Wizard of Oz. The estimate given for the sculptures in 2011 was  but Havranek said he would need to get an updated estimate.

“I think using the whole Frank Baum connection to Peekskill is phenomenal,” Talbot said. “I don’t want it to be a quick fix and sort of like ‘yeah, statue boom,’ like that does it.”

Mayor Foster suggested being vague about the type of sculptures that will be included in construction plans, to give the Council more time to think about what should go there.

Jean Friedman, the city’s director of planning, said this would be problematic for many sculptors, because they’ll want to know the exact dimensions of the space they have to work with.

Councilwoman Marybeth McGowan suggested including a set size and weight for each sculpture in the construction documents so that the process can keep moving forward.

“Someone may have nice piece they want to do that connects the Hudson River somehow to the walkway,” McGowan said. “I am not an artist. I don’t claim to be, but my thought process is that if we have decided that there is going to be something there that’s going to weigh 125 pounds or 150 pounds…you could still send the construction documents out.”

Deputy Mayor Drew Claxton agreed that the statues did not need to be tied to the Wizard of Oz. But she said the city needed to do something to acknowledge its connection to Baum.

“It’s a big draw here and I think it has a lot of potential to raise the city’s image,” Claxton said.

The Council eventually decided that it would have call out for additional proposals and pick the best one even if it isn’t tied to the Wizard of Oz. A date wasn't given for when it will begin accepting and reviewing proposals. 

jo February 25, 2013 at 04:39 PM
I have been to PEI Island ,, home of Anne of Green Gables.. the tourists flock there from all over.. believe me ..tour buses all day..and PEI Island is not easy to get too.. I was very surprised..
Diana February 25, 2013 at 09:18 PM
The Oz statues have been the talk for a few years now. Their was even coverage about it on the news. Mayor Foster was for the idea, the only thing was they didn't have was the funding. Now that the funding is here, seems she's going back on her word. There is now enough funding to do theses statues and money left over. Having these statues would attract many people to Peekskill.
Monk E. Lopez February 25, 2013 at 10:31 PM
Excellent idea. If the city hosted a midget bacchanalia every year, it would more than make up for the absence of Celebration AND the Paramount. Of course, the city would have to hire a lot of extra cops to make sure the hooliganism and sex parties were confined to certain areas but such expenditures would be more than offset by all the tourist revenue. You get a couple of local boys dressing up as Dorothy and pretty soon you're the Bourbon Street of the North.
Diana February 26, 2013 at 12:07 AM
The Wall Street Journal reports on a proposal to erect these statues in Peekskill, New York. Why Peekskill? . Frank Baum attended the Peekskill Military Academy. And there is a small stretch of yellow brick road in the city, reportedly old enough for him to have seen. Are those facts enough to make Peekskill a significant site in the literary history of Oz? You Bet! Peekskill historian in June 2011 claimed in a front page Wall Street Journal article, and on CBS Early Show five-minute segment, and repeated to the London Times newspaper that Peekskill has a direct, plausible and verifiable claim to the yellow brick road inspiration of Frank Baum. The assertion and its explanations have so far not been questioned or challenged by anyone from anywhere else. Peekskill has demonstrated its singular literary and historical connection to the famous OZ story.
george coniglio February 28, 2014 at 05:54 PM
Check out the effort to bring an Oz Celebration to Peekskill on Facebook.. Peekskill's Journey to Oz

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