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State officials urged to keep public art at Syracuse's New York Central train platform

As New York state prepares to restore the former New York Central train platform next to Interstate 690 in Syracuse, arts enthusiasts want to ensure that the public art on that platform, stays.

They’ve been waiting for the night train for over 30 years. White statues that mimic passengers on a crumbling train platform. They have no faces, these ghostlike commuters, with only a splash of color when red scarves mysteriously appear around their necks every winter, reminding passersby of a time when trains and not cars carried most central New Yorkers in and out of Syracuse.    

"They’re a calling card of our city, if you will," said Syracuse resident Michael John Heagerty, who say the statue are something that an entire generation can identify.

"They were installed overnight in 1982 which was the year I was born, and I actually say to myself, 'I don’t remember a time when they weren’t there,'" he said.

These now six statues were installed by couple of local guerrilla artists, including Duke Epolito, in the dark of night 33 years ago. Epolito still cleans them up every year or so, and they could become a casualty of a $1.5 million historic restoration of the train platform by the state Department of Transportation. The state will remove the statues during the work, but has been noncommittal about returning  them afterwards. That’s prompted Ty Marshal, a local arts activist to petition New York state

"Remove the sculptures from the structure and return them to the platform when construction is finished," said Marshal. "In essence, to consider the sculptures as part of the refurbishment project.”

The Director of Communications for the state Department of Transportation, in an email to WRVO News, says the state will safely store the statues during construction, and when the project is closer to completion, they will work with the community to see where the statues fit best.  

Marshal believes that has to be back on the platform, because they are site specific art work and need the context of a train platform to tell their story.

"Site specific art work is made for that space," said Marshal. "So removing it, and suggesting to put it somewhere else, is kind of against the purpose.”

Syracuse Public Arts Commissioner Kate Auwaerter says the sculptures are a big part of the city’s public art collection, with these evocative mystery passengers accomplishing what only public art can do.

"What we would like to be able to see is that people would be able to enjoy, be interested and intrigued by artwork on a day to day basis," she said.