From the first Manhattan settlers to the millions of immigrants who landed in New York after Ellis Island, the Battery has been the place where people got their first taste of the Big Apple.
Despite decades of neglect and decay, the area continues to bring in thousands of visitors a day, whether they are taking a ride on the carousel or catching a view of the harbor.
And experts say the recent $875,000 spruce job of Battery Park’s iconic memorials and monuments will make the area’s rebirth nearly complete.
“There is something special about that downtown area and Battery Park that makes this a fitting place for the collective memory,” said Marci Reaven, the vice president for history exhibitions at the New-York Historical Society.
The city and other groups, like the Battery Conservancy, have been working for the last two decades to make the Battery more than just a pit stop people made before they get on the ferry to a trip at the Statue of Liberty.
Over the last 22 years, the Conservancy secured more than $112 million for projects and programs like the Peter Minuit plaza located in front of the Staten Island Ferry terminal, and the Gardens of Remembrance, which was made to honor the victims of 9/11.
Over 600,000 people enter the park a month, according to the Conservancy.
Reaven, who has visited the monuments several times in the past, said the cleanup and additions to the park were important because it gave visitors an incentive to explore the history and architecture of the area.
“Despite how wonderful they are, not everyone knows what the memorials are about. The more attention that is paid to them, the more people are attracted to them,” he said
The Conservancy said their restoration project, which is close to completion, will increase that attraction. The memorials, which honor a variety of groups and historical periods such as the Merchant Marines and Korean War vets, have been recast in their original bronze and moved to the perimeter of the park to increase visibility.
“These monuments and markers identify the number of people who have done good deeds and relates to the origins of New York: exploration, discovery and immigration,’’ Johnathan Kuhn, director of arts and antiquities for the city’s parks department, said during a tour of the monuments last month.
The monuments haven’t had a good spruce job in 60 years and even recently they were tarnished with the litter carelessly left behind by bystanders.
In fact, wax paper from a hot dog was stuffed into the foundation of a display featuring a cannon dating back to the American Revolution.
“Yes, I am not happy,’’ Kuhn said while removing a pile of tourist maps that had been left next to the Cannon’s foundation. “We were hopeful that people would be more respectful. It’s definitely challenging.”
But the litter didn’t seem to dissuade Marileny Diaz of Kansas City, who stopped to take a selfie with her teenage daughter in front of the majestic statue of the Italian explorer Giovanni da Verrazzano.
“It’s just beautiful and I like it,” she said.
Warrie Price, the Conservancy’s president and founder, said it will take some work and education to among the public and the vendors to respect the space.
More projects are planned for the area including an expansion of the Battery Escape playground between State Street and South Street by nearly 44,000 square feet.
Reaven predicted that the renovations will inspire people to appreciate the memorials.
“There is something about the harbor that makes it more appealing for contemplation of the monuments,” she said.