1 2 3 5

Perlman: An Evolution of Local Sculptures

By Michael Perlman

[email protected]

Forest Hills was named in 1906, whereas Rego Park was named in 1923. For the past 116 years, there have been several freestanding sculptures, while fewer have been affixed to facades. Sculptures are few and far between, but local works exhibit fine quality and history. Above all, public art is a gift to the masses that bonds the generations. Now’s the time to discover a timeline of some of the most notable outdoor sculptures.

Fountain of Piping Pan

Fountain of Piping Pan: Sometimes a sculpture vanishes without a trace, but decades later a vision surfaces to have it replicated. This was a focal point of Olivia Park bounded by Markwood Road and Deepdene Road in Forest Hills Gardens. This environmentally beneficial feature consisted of a young male cherub playing a pipe that overlooked a bird fountain alongside the right-hand pathway as residents would walk from Markwood Road. In 1915, The Sun stated, “The presiding genius of the fountain is a small nude boy in plaster playing a pipe and the water tumbles over the stones at his feet down into a miniature lake, where the birds may disport themselves as in one of nature’s own sylvan retreats.” In response to The Bird Club of Long Island which formed that summer to safeguard birdlife, the publication stated, “From Brooklyn to Montauk Point, branch clubs are being formed, bird refuges and sanctuaries are being created, and other steps are being taken to make the bird population multiply, and the insect horde decrease.” The membership numbered 300 and spanned 40 communities.

On July 4, 1915, with a local chapter of the Audubon Society on-site, the bird fountain was unveiled. It was designed by Underwood Road resident Beatrix Forbes-Robinson Hale (later Women’s Suffrage Club of Forest Hills president) and presented by the Russell Sage Homes Company in dedication to Margaret Olivia Slocum Sage, who was praised for her passion for birds. She purchased Marsh Island to transform it into a bird sanctuary. Part of her acclaim was her establishment of the Russell Sage Foundation, which sought to improve the social and living conditions in the U.S. Olivia Park was named in her honor, and her vision was realized as it served as a natural amphitheater due to its sloping topography and acoustics.

WWI Soldiers and Sailors Memorial

WWI Soldiers & Sailors Memorial: On Flagpole Green, originally “Village Green,” in Forest Hills Gardens stands an ornate Neo-Classical pink granite and green and gold bronze monument, which honors 102 residents, and was dedicated in 1920. It was designed by renowned American sculptor Adolph Alexander Weinman (1870 – 1952), who lived nearby at 236 Greenway South and operated a studio at 234 Greenway South. The memorial reads, “Erected by the citizens of Forest Hills in recognition of the patriotic spirit and loyal devotion of the men of this community who served in the Military Forces of The United States in The Great War.” The design represents “The Call to Arms” above the names on the tablet including Dr. Joseph MacDonald, Gerald MacDonald, Henry MacDonald, George C. Meyer who served as president of Cord Meyer, and David and Howard Springsteen of the community’s farming family when Forest Hills was known as Whitepot.

Remsen Cemetery Two Doughboys

Remsen Cemetery’s two doughboys WWI memorial: Flanking a flagpole, these sculptures honor Forest Hills’ service. Remsen Cemetery was designated an NYC landmark in 1981. In Colonial times, it was popular for families to have private cemeteries close to home. The Remsen family erected a homestead on their farm adjacent to the cemetery in 1699, which stood until 1925. Jeromus Remsen Sr. (1735 – 1790) fought in the French and Indian War. As colonel of the Kings and Queens County Militia in the Battle of Long Island, he commanded the 7th New York Regiment in the American Revolutionary War.

The Remsen Park Coalition’s 1981 plaque states, “Within this park lies the remains of Revolutionary War Veteran Colonel Jeromus Remsen. Buried in the confines of this site were his cousins Major Abraham Remsen, Captain Luke Remsen, Lieutenant Aurt Remsen, and their families. The

Captain Gerald MacDonald statue

Remsen family was amongst the first settlers of this area, originally known as White Pot.” A 1925 survey revealed brownstone grave inscriptions of Jeromus, Anna, Jerome (two), Cornelius, Ann Elizabeth, Bridget, and Major Abraham Remsen. The Veterans Administration erected non-brownstone graves that memorialize Colonel Remsen, Maj. Abraham Remsen, and brothers Aurt and Garrett Remsen, were also Revolutionary War officers. The vanishing of some brownstone tombstones remains a mystery.

Captain Gerald MacDonald Statue: Standing prominently in MacDonald Park is a bronze sculpture bearing homage to Gerald MacDonald (1882 – 1929), a Forest Hills resident and WWI veteran. He was an officer of engineers at the Battle of Meuse-Argonne and erected bridges and dug trenches. It was dedicated on May 27, 1934, by Mayor Fiorello H. La Guardia, after American Legion Post 630 allocated $1,500 at the request of WWI veteran Henry MacDonald, Gerald’s brother. The granite base inscription reads: “Capt. Gerald MacDonald; Memorial Dedicated By Forest Hills Post No. 630 The American Legion; To Those Who Served In The World War; 1934.” The statue was sculpted by Henry MacDonald’s brother-in-law, Frederic de Henwood, and designed by architect William Henry Deacy. The park, itself, was named on April 25, 1933.

“Spirit of Communication” in Forest Hills

Forest Hills Post Office’s Spirit of Communication: The International-style façade is embellished with this terra-cotta relief, designed in 1938 by famed sculptor Sten Jacobsson. It features a female figurine holding a carrier pigeon and a clock, relating to timely services. It was commissioned by the Treasury Department Section of Fine Arts, where the goals were to enhance the public’s experience with art during the Great Depression while assisting impoverished local to national artists. The building earned the National Register of Historic Places status in 1988, and the sculpture achieved placement on the New Deal Art Registry.

“Floating Leaves” sculpture fountain

Floating Leaves: In 1961, Parkside Chapel at 98-60 Queens Boulevard, Rego Park was designed by notable architects Henry Sandig and Robert I. Kasindorf, earned listings in the AIA Guide To NYC, and was also a walking tour highlight. The façade offered a Modernist twist on traditional elements, and the building paid tribute to the Sinai desert of Moses, the Israelites, and the Ten Commandments, but in 2022, it was demolished. It consisted of thousands of varied Star of David patterned walls and concrete screens, and a tranquil two-story bronze “floating leaves” sculptural fountain in its outer walkway designed by the nationally recognized sculptor and painter Dr. Arnold Stone of Sea Cliff. He painted and specialized in sculpture in metal, stone, and wood, and also pursued small pool and fountain projects. The sculpture is stored since 2021 at an undisclosed site after pressure from this columnist and fellow preservationist Evan Boccardi. The sculpture features bronze leaves, granting an illusion of “floating leaves” affixed to a series of angular hollow abstract shapes. Residents are hoping the sculpture fountain can be resurrected locally.

Rendering for “Spider-Man” sculpture in Forest Hills

Spider-Man Forest Hills: The world’s most popular superhero may now be a bronze rendering on a postcard, but when complete, it will mark the latest addition to a trail of sculptures, filling a void for decades. Proposed for MacDonald Park, this is the result of Forest Hills’ own creative visionary Larry Ng, who appointed the very talented sculptor Dave Cortes, a mastermind of Brooklyn’s Captain America sculpture. Spider-Man would cling to a classic lamppost and bear homage to its creators, with Steve Ditko and Stan Lee street names. The goal is to inspire goodwill and civility towards others, analogous to how Spider-Man would in his stories. The story of Spider-Man originated in NYC and made waves in pop culture since 1962. Alter ego Peter Parker resided at 20 Ingram Street, which was featured in 1989 issues of Marvel Enterprises’ “The Amazing Spider-Man” and attended Forest Hills High School from 1962 to 1965.

Perlman: Forest Hills Spider-Man rendering revealed

Plans for a Spider-Man sculpture are continuing to take root in Forest Hills, thanks to longtime resident and creative visionary Larry Ng, who appointed the talented sculptor Dave Cortes, the mastermind behind the Captain America sculpture in Brooklyn.

For decades, Forest Hills has not seen any significant public sculpture commissions. Now Spider-Man is expected to follow the success of the WWI Soldiers & Sailors Memorial, Remsen Cemetery’s two doughboys WWI memorial, the Captain Gerald MacDonald Statue, and Forest Hills Post Office’s “Spirit of Communication.” Now is the chance to travel behind the scenes and discover the “talk of the town.”

“My approach was to design a compelling monument that epitomizes the character of Spider-Man, and incorporates elements of NYC,” said Dave Cortes, who also takes pride in bearing homage to the creators of Spider-Man. “Putting their names on street signs would be a good way to remind others of the blood, sweat, and tears Steve Ditko and Stan Lee put into creating the Spider-Man comics.”

A Spider-Man sculpture will both educate and entertain the public, imparting an appreciation for the beloved superhero genre. “Before Disney and blockbuster movies, a bunch of talented artists were telling amazing stories through comic book panels,” Cortes explained. “These superhero stories captivated the imaginations of children and adults alike for many years. It’s my hope that an iconic superhero, when seen as a life-sized statue, will inspire a sense of goodwill and civility towards others, the way the character of Spider-Man would in his stories.”

He believes that the hustle and bustle of NYC, where the story of Spider-Man originated, is the perfect location to experience the sculpture.

“Unlike many superheroes, Peter Parker was a normal teenager, having normal problems growing up in Forest Hills,” Ng said. For example, Parker struggled with paying bills, time management, worrying about the health of Aunt May, and dating girls. “Spider-Man became popular because his fans could identify with him.”

Cortes initially designed four renderings on paper and some loose clay sketches. He said, “The designs were typical for a heroic character or bronze statue, like the typical standing tall, ready for action kind of pose. Then I knew I wanted to try something different, even though I was a bit hesitant. When I shared the design with Larry Ng though, he liked it a lot.”

Ng considers Cortes to be very thoughtful in his design, such as how his goal was to honor Stan Lee, who conceived Spider-man, in addition to recognizing the less well-known but equally important artist Steve Ditko, who granted Spider-Man’s iconic appearance and brought him to life. “Spider-Man hanging off a lamppost is amazing,” Ng said. “It is dynamic and very different from traditional superhero poses. It shows one of Spider-Man’s unique powers; the ability to cling onto walls and objects.”

Ng feels that Cortes was the best candidate for Spider-Man, based on his history with Captain America in Brooklyn and his numerous years in designing animation, action, and comic book figures. He recalled, “When Dave first showed me Spider-Man hanging off a lamppost, my words were ‘Wow, breathtaking! This is amazing! This statue absolutely has to be built!’ To this day, I smile every time I look at Dave’s model.”

“Children and Spidey fans will absolutely love it!” Ng said, who marvels over Spider-man as the world’s most popular superhero, since making waves in pop culture in 1962. “Thousands of people already know about the Spider-Man Forest Hills project and are excited to see it come to fruition, and hundreds already told us that they can’t wait to take pictures with the sculpture.”

Cortes also designs action figures, statues, and collectibles. “I was fortunate to work with nearly every toy company out there, from Marvel to DC, and hundreds of licenses from popular to obscure,” Cortes reminisced.

Some of his work includes Batman, Hulk, Spider-Man, Hellboy, Pirates of the Caribbean, and recently Fortnite. He added, “My studio was asked by Marvel to model the 13-foot Captain America 75th anniversary statue, and that was pretty cool, but personally, my original work is what I’m most proud of.”

Spider-Man bronze model on trading card by sculptor Dave Cortes

One must wonder how Cortes’ career as an artist developed. “I used to think it was accidental, but looking back, I was always interested in some kind of art,” he explained. “Before I could write my name, I drew animal faces, but after realizing I was just a mediocre illustrator and painter, I was lucky to find clay and sculpture–the right medium. I could manipulate the material into the shapes I wanted. Then after getting pretty good with clay, I was lucky to work for the company, McFarlane Toys. Once I was introduced to the toy industry, I never looked back. It felt right, and here I am today, 23 years later!”

Cortes draws much inspiration from old-time masters and considers the Metropolitan Museum of Art as an amazing place for finding inspiration. “Sometimes the inspiration comes from the most unexpected places, as in a book, illustration, comic, movie, or just a memory of a special event. Everything inspires me, and I hope to always stay open to it all,” he said.

Back to Ng, he most recently presented at Forest Hills Comic-Con 2022–which was a draw for comic book fans at Forest Hills High School–the inspiration for Peter Parker’s “Midtown High School.”

“Everyone really liked the project, and when I presented the model of Spider-Man, I heard a chorus of ‘Oohs and ahhs.’ Many attendees already submitted comments in support of the project on the website,” he said.

“As I was thinking about this project, I thought of how much impact a character like Spider-Man has on kids growing up today, and how he represents such a positive figure,” Cortes said. He feels that such a role model is essential more than ever nowadays. “Even though he is a fictional character, I believe Spider-Man has affected the lives of many as if he was a living, breathing person. A sculpture of our friendly neighborhood Spider-Man is fitting to celebrate the character that represents the heart and soul of NYC.”

Frank DiBella of Academy Engraving, who is known for designing the Tony Awards, is expected to design a bronze plaque accompanying the sculpture. Spider-Man’s most famous quote, “With great power, comes great responsibility,” will be a highlight.

Mike Giordano, owner of Royal Collectibles at 96-01 Metropolitan Avenue, agreed to distribute a complimentary collectible trading card featuring Cortes’ rendering of Spider-Man and promote it on social media. “As per Dave’s suggestion, I loaned Mike the Spider-Man model to display in his store for a few weeks,” Ng said. This shop is among the most popular of its kind citywide. He continued, “If you would like to help build community support by volunteering to distribute these trade cards, please contact us through www.spidermanforesthills.com.” The public can also lend their support online by posting comments and offering suggestions.

Fill the Form for Events, Advertisement or Business Listing