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Columbia Spectator Staff

Hundreds of New Yorkers and tourists flock daily to Central Park to visit Strawberry Fields, the 2.5-acre tribute to the late Beatles icon John Lennon. Soon, there may be less for them to look at.

The memorial's centerpiece—a mosaic, inscribed with the song title "Imagine"—is sinking, and city planners are scrambling to keep the tourist attraction level.

"Whoever the contractors who originally did the mosaic were, they screwed up," said Ayrton Dos Santos, Jr., the so-called "Mayor of Strawberry Fields," who also goes by Gary. "There's just dirt on one side; the other side is dirt, concrete, and asphalt."

With one side more stable than the other, the mosaic is tipping, sinking down into the dirt, producing cracks along the way.

"The mosaic is 20 years old, and there are inevitable signs of aging," said Lane Addonizio, associate vice president for planning at the Central Park Conservancy.

But that's not enough for some. "If they were trying to prevent it, they would have fixed it two years ago," said Gary, who lives in Central Park and has laid flowers in symbolic patterns on the mosaic every day for years.

The memorial opened in 1985 on the western edge of Central Park at 72nd Street, just across Eighth Avenue from the Dakota apartment building, where Lennon lived; it was also the site of his assassination.

Part of the problem stems from the fact that while the mosaic measures 11 feet across, the concrete under it spans only 10 feet.

M.C. Reiley, supervisor of monuments conservation for the CPC, told New York Magazine this summer, "The problem is that it wasn't constructed very well ... Right off the bat there's been this problem with a half-foot of the mosaic all the way around not resting on anything."

"I understand they want to keep the original, but the bottom line is, it needs to be totally redone," Gary said between puffs on his ever-present cigarettes. "If they don't fix it this year, it'll only get worse, and if a car drives over it—like the police—there will be no mosaic to fix." Addonizio was confident in the conservancy's ability to keep the mosaic from sinking.

"I don't think it would be destroyed," she said. "We have a conservation crew and a conservation consultant, and we monitor this thing. We try to be as non-invasive as possible; to address the causes and try the most minimal treatments first to see if they work."

Maggie Astor can be reached at maggie.astor@columbiaspectator.com.

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