ITHACA, N.Y.—McDaniels Park is a pleasant, nondescript park in Ithaca’s West End, with a small tree swing, woods and green grass when it’s not covered by snow. But this week, a new addition to the environment appeared seemingly out of nowhere: a monolith.
Monoliths have been popping up around the world over the last several weeks, including in Utah, California, Romania and elsewhere. Their genesis is still unclear, though headlines have theorized that the string of appearances indicates either alien life or are part of a sprawling performance art project. It could also just be a rather labor-intensive and elaborate prank.
Upon inspection by the Ithaca Voice, the structure appears quite sturdy, even after withstanding an onslaught of nearly a foot of snow. It is ominous, metal and stands about 10 feet tall. Pictures of the structure taken by Ithacan Fred Cederstrom show geographic coordinates on the side of the monolith, although those had disappeared by Thursday afternoon. Additional pictures were taken by user solarcrux and compiled into a Imgur folder.
Asked for comment, Mayor Svante Myrick offered the following statement:
“It’s classified Matt I can’t comment any further,” Myrick said, perhaps joking.
Planning Director JoAnn Cornish also did not know where the structure came from. City Forester Jeanne Grace said that she had heard some neighbors installed the piece over the weekend and had received one complaint call about it, but that the city had not granted them permission to place the monolith there.
“It’s a fun light-hearted mystery but it is also frustrating to other members of the public who go through the long and arduous path through the legitimate City process to get a piece of art or other project approved by the City,” she said. “It seems fairly sturdy but we do worry about the City’s liability if someone did get hurt while climbing on it or otherwise interacting with the sculpture, since it was not vetted by City staff in any way. For those reasons we are not able to just ignore it and let it remain in the park long term.”
Due to that, she said the city would look to remove the monolith in the next week or so, unless it vanishes as quickly as it appeared.
“I am hoping it is temporary and will move on as the Utah monolith did, maybe it will end up in Romania as its inspirational monolith did,” she said.
Nearby resident Kent Johnson and his daughter Audrey were playing on the tree swing close to the monolith, unafraid despite being merely 20 yards away from the item. Johnson said his daughter first noticed the monolith Wednesday, but that he didn’t know who brought it there or why they did so.
“It seems like a pretty good place for people to put their mud graffiti,” Johnson said. It does appear as though some arguably creative residents have added their own touches to the monolith, including drawings made out of a substance that is hopefully mud.
Questions remain, of course. What’s the purpose? How did someone transport such a large object without being seen? Did aliens visit Ithaca? Did Banksy visit Ithaca? Do aliens live in Ithaca? Does Banksy live in Ithaca? These queries are still maddeningly unanswered.
Anna Lamb and Dustin Patte contributed reporting to this story.