Out of This World Design

A bona fide alien abduction monument pops up in Manhattan’s Battery Park

Art East On View
Staten Island sculptor Joe Reginella has created a pop-up memorial dedicated to a supposed alien abduction that happened in New York Harbor in the 1970s. (Courtesy Joe Reginella)
Staten Island sculptor Joe Reginella has created a pop-up memorial dedicated to a supposed alien abduction that happened in New York Harbor in the 1970s. (Courtesy Joe Reginella)

A very strange monument has popped up in Manhattan’s Battery Park that alludes to a legendary UFO sighting in New York Harbor. Designed by Staten Island–based sculptor Joe Reginella, the curious memorial is dedicated to the six men aboard the tugboat Maria 120, which, according to Reginella, mysteriously vanished in July 1977.

Reginella, who The New York Times called “the Banksy of monuments,” crafted the NYC Tugboat Abduction monument out of weathered bronze in honor of local lore. Weighing a total of 300 pounds, it depicts a longshoreman kneeling beside an alien figure while looking up at the sky, or rather, an unidentified object flying away.  A plaque covering the pedestal of the four-piece monument tells the story of the long-lost Maria 120 and is “dedicated in their memory by Local 333 and the Honorable Mayor Edward I. Koch.”

According to Reginella, the urban legend is that the tugboat and its crew, who were patrolling the waters between Liberty Island and Battery Park one summer night, mysteriously disappeared. The crew saw a streak of light shoot through the night sky before an aircraft of sorts crashed into the harbor. The crew radioed the Coast Guard to let them know they’d try to tow the vessel to shore, but when the backup help arrived, both the Maria 120 and the aircraft they claimed to have seen were gone.

This isn’t the first seemingly-sincere memorial Reginella has made to poke fun at New York’s many word-of-mouth myths. He’s also done public art pieces dedicated to the Brooklyn Bridge Elephant Stampede and the apparent octopus attack that happened on a ferry near Staten Island.

His work isn’t just fun, however—it’s educational. Reginella put together a website, a documentary trailer, and souvenirs to supplement the tugboat abduction story. His logo for the project features the Statue of Liberty with a UFO hovering over it. Interested viewers can even take a Harbor Mystery Cruise to learn more about the oddities that have taken place in New York Harbor.

Since Reginella has to pack up and transport The NYC Tugboat Abduction monument every day, it’s periodically on view across from the East Coast Memorial. Catch it before it disappears forever.

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