"Imagine a dank, dark cavern that happens to be 40, 50 feet above the Grand Army Plaza."
That unpleasant image is how Rob Witherwax, coordinator of the Grand Army Plaza Coalition and vice chair of Community Board 8, describes the interior of the Soldiers' and Sailors' Arch.
That's why the Prospect Park Alliance, a member of the coalition, is raising money to restore the arch. In the past year elected officials, most notably Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz and City Council Members Letitia James and Steve Levin, have allotted $1.35 million for the Arch's restoration.
However, according to the Prospect Park Alliance, the Arch needs an estimated $2 million in repairs. In particular, the roof is riddled with leaks and the Arch's interior needs electrical work done.
"The Arch used to welcome visitors inside for art exhibits and we'd like to return it to that use," said Prospect Park Alliance Press Director Eugene Patron in an email. "So the inside will need a good bit of work to get it back to code."
The Arch hasn't been touched up since 2000, when some of the sculptures on its exterior were restored. The inside has been closed to the public for two years, and has been practically unused for three, when a puppet library vacated the increasingly damp and dingy room.
"It has fantastic potential as a space," said Witherwax, who added the Arch's interior can be used as a performance space, a meeting room or a historical repository.
This is not the first time the Arch has descended into a state of disarray.
In 1976, the Victory figure in the Quadriga atop the Arch actually became so decayed that she fell over in her chariot. The toppled statue, a highly public symbol of the Arch's condition, forced the hand of then-Mayor Ed Koch, who began working to restore the plaza after he took office. But still, the Arch would not be fully restored until 1980.
In recent years the Prospect Park Alliance has been working to ensure that the plaza does not return to that state. Over the last decade, they've helped restore the Bailey Fountain, overseen the return of the monument to President John F. Kennedy and assigned a dedicated "Zone Gardener" to the area.