Osprey sculpture due to fly west


If Greenporters want the beloved Osprey sculpture, Morning Call, back in their village, Mayor David Nyce suggested Monday night that they call Jim Miller of Miller Environmental and make their wishes known.

The 35-foot Roberto Julio Bessin sculpture, including a 15-foot pedestal created from I-beams from the World Trade Center, is slated to fly west to Jean Cochran Park next Wednesday, Aug. 31, clutching an American flag between its claws, according to Mr. Miller. In the event of inclement weather, the osprey will fly the following day. The sculpture is destined to perch at the site where the Ospreys collegiate baseball team plays each summer.

The sculpture will be airlifted by helicopter under a contract with Ray Feeney of North Fork Helicopter in Cutchogue, who arranged for Air Crane Inc., of Georgia, to carry the piece.

The sculpture was originally intended as a gift to Greenport for temporarily housing owner Jim Miller’s heron sculpture during a court battle with his Paradise Point neighbors, who thought it was ugly. The heron has since returned to Mr. Miller’s property. Since Morning Call arrived in Greenport in 2002, it has perched on the dock at Steve Clarke’s Greenport Yacht & Shipbuilding Company. But winds as high as 70 mph and boating accidents have caused damage to the sculpture.

“The dock’s been hit by a number of boats, which rocks the sculpture, and a number of bronze bars have cracked or broken,” Mr. Clarke said in early July. “The osprey’s got to come down for maintenance, and at that time we’d like to move it to a place where it’s more available to more people.”

The sculpture never belonged to Greenport Village, Mr. Nyce told a throng of residents who complained at Monday night’s Village Board meeting about what they saw as the failure of officials to appreciate the significance of the sculpture, which memorializes Sept. 11, 2001.

Contrary to claims that the Village Board secretly refused to take ownership of the sculpture, Mr. Nyce said he was approached by an unnamed representative of Mr. Miller and asked about placing the osprey in Mitchell Park.

“I said fantastic,” Mr. Nyce told the crowd Monday night.

But when he emailed board members to tell them of Mr. Miller’s idea, there were concerns, including whether the park should house any artwork, particularly a piece not created by a local artist. If the village were to accept the gift of the sculpture, there was also the issue of insuring it properly and making sure it posed no critical risk to those who might visit the site.

When Mr. Nyce told Mr. Miller’s representative about the concerns, he said he was told Mr. Miller wanted no formal consideration of the matter and that’s why the issue was never publicly brought before the board, the mayor said.

Other suggestions for where the sculpture might be placed in Greenport were rejected by Mr. Miller, the mayor said.
“Talk to the owner and let’s bring the statue back,” Mr. Nyce said.

Mr. Miller confirmed the mayor’s statement. But he added that both the previous administration of Dave Kapell and the present Nyce administration had failed to act to take possession of the sculpture and provide a good home for it.

When the decision not to place it in Mitchell Park was conveyed, North Ferry suggested a site overlooking its Greenport dock. But Mr. Nyce said that would involve getting permission from the state Department of Environmental Conservation, the Army Corps of Engineers and others.

Mr. Miller saw that as at least two years of bureaucracy, he said.

“I’ve had enough bulls—,” he said. “I’m fed up with a government that can’t work.” He made his offer to Southold Town and a board vote confirmed the gift and work was rapidly under way to pour the concrete for the base at Jean Cochran Park.

As much as Mr. Miller said he appreciated Mr. Clarke’s providing a home for the sculpture all these years, he said he looks forward to people being able to see the piece up close and actually touch the massive column from the 33rd floor of the World Trade Center’s north tower.

“This is such a massive column” it will cause people to think that the building couldn’t possibly have come down, he said. It will cause them “to ponder the loss of life.”

“This is a memorial to the pain and suffering of all Americans,” Mr. Miller said.

In the past month, the osprey sculpture has been on the landward side of the dock, where Mr. Bessin has been working to refurbish it.

“We want to have the memorial in place by 9/11 this year at Cochran Park so people can go up and touch it and feel the thickness of the twisted metal,” deputy public works director Jeff Standish told the Southold Town Board at a July work session.

“We built it just for local people and it’s had enormous notoriety and appeal locally, but it hasn’t gotten national notoriety,” Mr. Clarke said. “I believe it’s the largest monument to the 9/11 disaster that there is anywhere in the country. Where it is now, people see it, but they aren’t aware of its significance.”

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