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Independent Engineer Report Supports Dismantling the Harlem Watchtower

By Gustavo Solis | November 20, 2014 2:26pm
 Workers will completely deconstruct the watchtower and put it back together again in a $4 million restoration.
Workers will completely deconstruct the watchtower and put it back together again in a $4 million restoration.
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DNAinfo/Jeff Mays

HARLEM — An independent report on the structural integrity of the watchtower atop Marcus Garvey Park supports the Parks Department’s claim that the tower needs to be taken down as soon as possible.

Preservationists called for the report after finding out that an emergency contract to take down the tower did not mention anything about the restoration process.

Both the Parks Department and the Department of Buildings cited a 2009 report by Thornton Tomasetti when saying the tower needed to come down immediately.

The new independent report, released in October, states that the 157-year-old tower’s “major structural components are deteriorated, in some cases severely.”

“The approaches described by Thornton Tomasetti remain valid and the preferred option seems to be the optimal solution,” the report by Robert Silman Associates states.

While preservationists agree that the tower must be disassembled, they want to ensure that priority is given to the restoration process.

The tower, which will begin to be taken down by the end of the month, is expected to be restored by 2017, according to the Parks Department.

“The concern has always been that the cast iron components of the historically significant and landmarked fire watchtower should not linger in storage during a lengthy drawn out procurement process,” said Connie Lee of the Marcus Garvey Park Alliance.

During an October community board meeting, concerned locals pointed to an unfinished club house near the park’s baseball diamond as a sign that the Parks Department does not get projects done in time.

Last week, Parks Department Manhattan Chief of Staff Steve Simon answered the “unfair” criticism by pointing out that the department has completed eight projects at Marcus Garvey Park since 2002.

Those projects include installing a safety surface for the playground, restoring the paths and staircase leading up to the top of the park, reconstructing the amphitheater and renovating the east side of the park by adding a spray shower, benches and chess tables.

“Removing the tower should be thought of as the first step in the restoration process,” he said.

The Parks Department added an additional $2 million to the $4 million previously raised by preservationists, elected officials and other groups, he added.