HARLEM — The watchtower atop Marcus Garvey Park is gone — but those who venture to the top will still hear bells ringing.
A group of artists have temporarily installed an abstract sculpture at the top of the park's stone-paved "acropolis" that resembles the historic watchtower that stood at the site until it was deemed unsound and ordered to be taken down last fall.
The sculpture, called "Caesura," will play an audio loop of bells ringing and clips of recorded speeches by Marcus Garvey that can be heard from 10 feet away. The structure went up last week and the sound component will be introduced during an informal celebration Saturday at 3 p.m.
“The idea is to take the acropolis and the park and activate it, particularly while the tower is going to be down for two years,” said Connie Lee, president of the Marcus Garvey Park Alliance.
Caesura, standing 14-feet-tall and more than 25-feet-long, resembles the watchtower laying on its side. From a certain angle, visitors can peer through the structure and see what appears to be its spiral staircase leading to the tip.
Jessica Feldman, the Harlem-based artist who created the piece with artists/architects Jerome Haferd and K Brandt Knapp, said, "the project is about turning the assumption of the tower on its side, preserving its history as something that calls up the neighborhood and is used by the community — but turning it into a place to gather and listen."
The Parks Department decided to dismantle the watchtower last year following warnings from architects that it was unstable and could topple at any time. The tower, which had a bell, was used to alert Harlem about fires during the 1800s.
Preservationists fought to keep the watchtower in place because of its historic significance and the Parks Department is now working on restoring the tower for its planned return to the park by 2017, officials said.
Caesura is the first of what preservationists hope will be an ongoing series of installations atop the park.
On July 13 there will be a one-day video installation and by August they hope to have a second public art piece, Lee said.
Feldman has noticed tourists and locals wandering to the top of the park while the sculpture was being built. So far the reactions have been positive, she said.
“People are fascinated by it,” Feldman said. “It’s a really unique architectural structure. People want to know how it’s made, they want to know what it does, they want to know how it works.”