KIPS BAY — Bellevue Hospital is fixing up its Sobriety Garden and increasing security after vandals struck earlier this year, slashing and beheading nearly every one of its animal sculptures created by patients.
The statues now repaired include a small dog that was sporting a brand-new head and a new pair of green glass eyes this week.
“Repairs to the statues have begun and will be ongoing over the next few months,” said Bellevue spokeswoman Evelyn Hernandez.
Every Sunday since the end of March, the staff and patients at Bellevue’s Chemical Dependency Outpatient Program have been preparing the garden for spring planting and repairing the statues, Hernandez said. Patients in the program have created the statues over the past 14 years.
“We are providing cement and sand for our artists to work with and some of the major pieces have already been repaired,” Hernandez said.
Bellevue has not discovered who damaged the sculptures or exactly when the vandalism took place, but the hospital became aware of it when an employee spotted it on Jan. 17, officials said.
Since repairs began, a towering sculpture of a man had its nose replaced and four of about a dozen sheep statues have gotten new noses and mouths.
Artist Dr. Annatina Miescher, who founded the garden and worked at Bellevue until 2010, has been returning every Sunday to help restore the pieces, including the lounging lions — which were found with their heads dangling from their necks but have now been reassembled.
"I started dedicating my Sundays to it, and have so far gotten four ... sheep, the big shepherd, the lion-lioness couple, and the puppy on the column back into shape," Miescher said.
Some statues, however, were still headless or nose-less as of Monday, including a smiling pig, an eagle, a bird-man and a black and white border collie.
The Sobriety Garden was created in 1989 as a place for patients and guests at Bellevue to find peace and quiet.
It also served as a refuge for patients of the hospital’s Chemical Dependency Program, who had crafted the statues by hand and grew fruits and vegetables in the garden during the warmer months.
“I used to come out here every day and was really sad to see it damaged,” said Bellevue worker Eric Pierce, who was taking a break to relax in the garden on Monday. “It’s really exciting to see that it’s getting repaired.”
In addition to the repairs, Bellevue plans to curb future vandalism by increasing security near the garden, which is located behind the hospital near the south parking lot and FDR Drive.
“Bellevue has begun work to increase security to the area including increased hospital police patrols and security cameras,” Hernandez said.
Bellevue workers who had come to the garden on Monday to eat their lunch, read or to smell the flowers said they were grateful to see the garden back to its peaceful self.
“It’s a beautiful place to have lunch,” said Bellevue worker Elizabeth Ubiera, who was reading in the shade on Monday. “You can see the change in seasons with all the flowers.”