QUEENS — A large statue in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park is getting it’s shine back thanks to a summer-long restoration project, part of a citywide program to restore public art.
The "Rocket Thrower" statue, designed by Donald De Lue for the 1964 World’s Fair, is being restored through funds raised by The Municipal Art Society’s Adopt-A-Monument program, which has restored monuments around the city since 1987 in collaboration with the Parks Department.
The statue is the last from the original list to be restored, according to Jonathan Kuhn, the director of the Arts & Antiquities program in the Parks Department.
The 43-foot high rendition of a man hurling a rocket into space with one hand, and grabbing a constellation of stars with the other, was designed as a permanent feature that would outlast the fair, according to Kuhn.
But years of neglect left it in need of a little love, and the six-week restoration is almost finished — in time for the U.S. Open.
Fundraising and donations will cover the $100,000 cost of restoring and then maintaining the statue, according to Phyllis Samitz Cohen, who directs the Adopt-A-Monument program.
She said the program was born out of the realization that many of the city’s public pieces of art were neglected.
“The collection suffered to some degree with cutbacks,” Kuhn said of the city’s monuments and statues.
Through the program, 37 monuments have been preserved. With the Rocket Thrower nearly finished, the program will move on to maintaining the art they’ve saved.
The statue in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park was restored by Steven Tatti, who has worked with the program in the past.
It first had to be cleaned, and then the dull color was restored to it’s original bronze hue.
Several layers of hot wax will be applied before buffing it to a shine.
And the handful of stars on top were restored and re-gilded — first with a yellow primer and then finished with 23.5-carat gold leaf.
The statue stands in line with the Unisphere and the Queens Museum, which was built for the 1939 World's Fair and is currently undergoing an extensive renovation that should be finished by the end of the year.
"We’re very pleased — just before next year will be the 50th anniversary of the World’s Fair— to have this sculpture fully restored,” he said.
“A lot of good things are coming together simultaneously."