This Statue of Liberty is about to get exiled

(Credit: Urbanite)

By Laura Silver

Special to amNewYork

The Statue of Liberty was dedicated 122 years ago Tuesday, but a few miles north, a much smaller version of the city’s great symbol of welcome is about to get exiled.

For 32 years, a human-scale Statue of Liberty has lifted her halogen lamp atop the two-story American Pipe & Tank Lining Co., on West 35th Street. Now, the small-scale Mother of Exiles is observing its final autumn in Manhattan, a half-block from the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center.

The 102-year-old family firm will relocate — under duress — to make way for the Hudson Yards real-estate development.

"The city seized our property under eminent domain," said company president Richard Silver, from an office crammed with fishing-trip photos, golf clubs and industry citations.

George Shea, a spokesman for the Hudson Yards Development Corp., said the building will ultimately be demolished. American Pipe has been there for 38 years.

But Lady Liberty will be salvaged.Silver, 69, intends to bring his "favorite lady" to his company's new Long Island City headquarters.

"You can't leave her behind," said his son Steven, the fifth generation in the business.

“We’ll just unbolt it and rebolt it to the new building," said the elder Silver, who purchased the cast cement-fiberglass-epoxy reproduction in 1976 as a decoration for a building-industry Bicentennial celebration.

"I saw it somewhere and I just bought it," said Silver. "It wasn’t a major expense, about $50."

That wasn't his only foray into the realm of public art. The mechanical engineer and licensed plumber used his technical know-how to help British artist Rachel Whiteread. Her 12-foot resin cast of a wooden water tank is now installed on the roof of the Museum of Modern Art.

"Water Tower" was originally commissioned by the Public Art Fund in 1998. The organization's then-director, Tom Eccles, said Silver provided essential technical advice and pinpointed the location where it was first displayed, high above Grand Street in lower Manhattan.

Chris Vilardi, president of Long Island City Artists, is not convinced Silver's tempest-tost statue qualifies as public art. He would rather see new work made specifically for the western Queens neighborhood. "I'm sure someone's going to pass by and enjoy it," he said. "I'm almost certain it won't be me."

Others see the small-scale statue as emblematic of the same ideals of the real lady in the harbor.

"One of the great things about New York is idiosyncratic individuals are still able to make some impact on the landscape," said Eccles, now executive director of Bard College's Center for Curatorial Studies. "It's not just about big developers."

Photo: Richard Silver, owner of American Pipe and Tank Lining at 538 W. 35th St. in Manhattan, has a replica of the Statue of Liberty on his roof and memorabilia like promotional T-shirts and masks in his office. (Dave Sanders)

Tags: manhattan , hell's kitchen , hudson yards , long island city , statue of liberty , neighborhoods , real estate , queens , architecture

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