I've pointed it out before, but while I'm a native Manhattanite, I didn't grow up downtown. Of course, once I was let off my leash, so to speak, I explored all that this island had to offer, but my formative years were spent on the decidedly un-gritty and thoroughly un-cool Upper East Side. My family hopscotched around the neighborhoods north of East 86th Street a few times when I was in my low, single digits, usually hovering between the areas of Yorkville and Carnegie Hill. When I finally moved downtown, I probably shook my fist and vowed I'd never return to these staid, characterless streets. That was still the 90's, though. Downtown still seemed like a very different city.
Anyway, I've softened on the old Upper East Side since then. While so much of what I adore about Lower Manhattan has completely vanished, there is a small modicum of solace I feel when I go back to my old stomping grounds and see it relatively untouched (or at least compared to the radical facelift downtown is undergoing). I don't get up there all that often, but when I do, I can't help but feel pangs of comfortable familiarity.
Yesterday, however, Peg and I decided to take advantage of the relatively balmy temperatures and brought the kids uptown so they could run around Central Park. We also spent a bit of time walking around my old neighborhood on East 93rd street. As I was pointing out various banal details of my grade school years ("here's where I used to buy comic books, there's where my favorite pizzeria was," etc.) I was suddenly stopped dead in my tracks when we got to Park Avenue. A certain silhouette was pointedly missing. The hulking brown sculpture that had proudly stood in the center of the avenue (on the mall .. I took that shot of it above in the late 90's) at East 92nd street since practically before I can remember was inexplicably...... gone.
Erected sometime in the early 1970's, this massive metal sculpture -- which, I've recently learned, is/was called "Night Presence IV," not that it would have meant anything to me at the time -- served as a sort of anchor to my neighborhood. As a child, spotting it on my way back from somewhere was akin to spying the inviting color of my front door. It was a visual signifier that I was home. In the spring, my friends and I would actually climb on it. In the winter, we'd pelt the thing with snowballs, a firm shot resounding with a satisfying, echoey BOOOOONNNNNGGGG when we struck our target squarely.
I did a bit of Googling when I got home and came upon this recently composed blog entry by one Lindsay Gellman that pretty much answered all my questions. Evidently, "Night Presence IV" by Louise Nevelson was dismantled in haste in February 2011, as it was gradually eroding into a state of disrepair.
Gellman's excellent post pretty much answers all the remaining questions but one, that being whether or not the sculpture will ever return to its longtime perch on the upper reaches of Park Avenue (that being contingent on private donations towards an unwieldy sum). Until it does come back, though, I can't say it'll ever truly feel like home again.