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'Eternal Flame' for Veterans Out in Madison Square Park as City Seeks Replacement

By DNAinfo Staff on June 30, 2010 4:33pm  | Updated on July 1, 2010 6:58am

By Jill Colvin

DNAinfo Reporter/Producer

MIDTOWN — The "eternal flame" in Madison Square Park has been out for more than a year.

The star-shaped light that sits 125 feet in the air atop a flagpole was first lit on Nov. 11, 1923 as a memorial to soldiers killed in World War 1. It was replaced in 2002 with an LED light system that was supposed to last for 12 years.

But the star isn't waterproof, and years of weather damage have knocked out the lights. The Parks Department is working with the Madison Square Park Conservency to find the money to replace it with a star less vulnerable to the elements.

"What we want to do is redesign the star so that it is water-tight and would not require us to replace the bulbs with huge cranes that often," said Parks spokesman Philip Abramson.

Maggi Landau, executive vice president of the conservancy, said that once it receives an estimate from the Parks Department, it will begin to negotiate how to split the costs.

A timeline for the repairs has not yet been reached.

Retiree Allan Liff, 72, who can see the monument from his apartment, said he hopes to see the light shine again soon.

"It’s an important reminder," Liff said.

Timothy Doyle, 50, a fiber optic wire repairman who keeps the Purple Heart his grandfather earned in WW1 sitting on his dresser in Rockland County, agreed.

"I think it should be lit, especially with all our boys dying in Afghanistan and Iraq," he said while working across the street from the darkened flagpole Tuesday night.

According to a plaque in front of the monument, which is also the starting point of the city's annual Veteran's Day parade, the light is "intended to be lit at all times as an eternal tribute to those who paid the supreme sacrifice."