Drones to Fly Above Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument this Week

Airborne drones buzzing around the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument in Riverside Park this week will herald the start of a $62.3 million restoration project on the landmark structure.

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The drones have been permitted by the NYC Police Department to fly around the plaza March 5th through 8th and again on the 12th. They will survey the monument and the area and gather details and data to help engineers plan the upcoming restoration. Funding for the project was put in the city’s fiscal year 2024 budget last year after a long campaign by supporters calling for repairs to the 122-year-old structure and surrounding plaza.

notice of drone activity

Advocates for the project, including elected officials, the Riverside Park Conservancy and the public, have been rallying for years for the much-needed restoration. Perhaps most notably among them was City Council Member Gale Brewer, who in 2022 launched a petition that gathered thousands of signatures.

A notice from the city shared on X (formerly Twitter) by Brewer states that the drones are expected to “capture still images, audio and video” in the area. The permit allows the drones’ operation on the above dates from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. They will take off from and land at the monument.

Sam Goldsmith, a spokesperson for Brewer, said that although the permit covers five days, the drones will probably only be used over two days or so. He said the data is being gathered by engineers planning the repairs.

“Part of the restoration is surveying the damage, inspecting every little part of what needs to be fixed. You got to get close,” he said.

NYC Parks press officer Kelsey Jean-Baptiste added that the five-day permit was approved to cover possible weather delays.

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While drone permits are now issued by the NYPD, the Parks Department (which used to issue the permits) will still oversee the project, Goldsmith said.

A 2017 survey done for the Parks Department found the monument to be “in a near-catastrophic state of decay,” according to the Riverside Park Conservancy. In addition, the report “identified an urgent need to stabilize the surrounding hillside, embankments and ceremonial plaza” surrounding the historic circular structure.

A company called Vertical Access will be operating the drones, and according to Jean-Baptiste, the design is expected to be complete in June 2025 (per the Parks’ Capital tracker).

The procurement process, during which time a contractor will be hired, will take 9-12 months, so the construction start date is expected to be in the summer of 2026. The actual construction process is expected to take 12-18 months.

The 20,000 square foot white marble monument commemorates the approximately 370,000 service members from New York who fought on the Union side in the Civil War.

First unveiled in 1902, the Monument most recently went through extensive renovations in 1962, when $1 million was spent on a new roof and fixes to the interior.

The memorial was designated an NYC landmark in 1976 and a state landmark in 2001. It bears the inscription: “To the memory of the brave soldiers and sailors who saved the Union.” It cost $300,000 to build.


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