A nearly million-dollar restoration of the monuments that dot the Battery at the southern tip of Manhattan is nearing completion.
The last renovation of the monuments, which honor the city’s immigrant spirit and commercial soul of New York Harbor, was in the 1950s.
Since then, the statues had been tucked inside the park, in disrepair. But after a $875,000 restoration effort by New York City, they are now recast in their original bronze and have been moved to the perimeter of the park, making them more visible to the thousands of visitors who ramble in and around the Battery each day.
“These monuments and markers identify the number of people who have done good deeds and relates to the origins of New York: exploration, discovery and immigration,’’ said Johnathan Kuhn, director of arts and antiquities for the city’s parks department.
Last week, Kuhn took a tour of the Battery’s monuments with a reporter, pointing out statues such as that of John Ericsson, the Swedish-American inventor who designed the ironclad warship and rotating gun turret to fight the South in the Civil War.
“This is a well-sculpted portrait,’’ Kuhn said. “His face shows his humanity. He is natural standing there. Look at his coat … one of his buttons are undone.’’
He also noted the bronze plaque that commemorates Peter Caesar Alberti, who became the first Italian to settle in New York in 1635.
But amid these historic dedications are food and T-shirt vendors — and a trail of plastic bags, food wrappers and other detritus.
A half-eaten kebab was thrown into a fountain bowl that faces the Wireless Operators Memorial, which was dedicated in 1915 to pay homage to the steamship radio operators who died at sea.
Waxed paper from a hot dog was stuffed into the foundation of a display featuring a cannon dating back to the American Revolution.
“Yes, I am not happy,’’ Kuhn said, removing a pile of tourist maps that had been left next to the Cannon’s foundation. “We were hopeful that people would be more respectful. It’s definitely challenging.”
Warrie Price is president and founder of the Battery Conservancy, a nonprofit organization that has raised an estimated $47 million in donations and $98 million in grants for the Battery since the conservancy started in 1994.
Price said keeping unsightly litter off State Street and in the park is a challenge because “of density and usage.”
“We have to tell the public to pick up and reach out to a [trash] basket,” said Price, adding 600,000 tourists are expected to enter the park and head to the Statue of Liberty ferries this month.
Vendors, too, need to keep the area clean, Price said, adding: “It will be a constant education.”
But the litter didn’t seem to dissuade Marileny Diaz of Kansas City, Kansas, who was in town visiting her sister.
Diaz stopped to take a selfie with her teenage daughter in front of the majestic statue of the Italian explorer Giovanni da Verrazzano, featured with the stately feminine figure representing discovery at his feet.
Diaz said she did not notice whom the statue depicted.
“It’s just beautiful and I like it,” she said.