Binghamton is welcoming a new tourist attraction to Recreation Park, an 8-foot-tall statue of Rod Serling. The statue commemorates Serling, a screenwriter who called Binghamton his home.
Serling is most recognized for creating “The Twilight Zone” and the original “Planet of the Apes” film of 1968. Nick Parisi, president of the Rod Serling Memorial Foundation and author of “Rod Serling: His Life, Work and Imagination,” said the project to create a Rod Serling monument has been an ongoing effort.
Parisi said the foundation sought to create a monument for several years, organizing a Kickstarter two years ago. Since then, New York State Assemblywoman Donna A. Lupardo assisted the foundation with receiving a state grant of $50,000 at SerlingFest, the annual festival hosted by the Rod Serling Memorial Foundation.
The most recent SerlingFest took place Aug. 12 to Aug. 14, 2022, in various locations in Binghamton. The event featured different authors and artists, including Anne Serling — Rod’s daughter — Tony Albarella — editor of “As Timeless of Infinity: The Complete Twilight Zone Scripts Of Rod Serling,” a 10-volume set of “The Twilight Zone” scripts — and Mark Dawidziak, author of “Everything I Need to Know I Learned in the Twilight Zone: A Fifth-Dimension Guide to Life.”
The festival also featured screenings of “The Twilight Zone” episodes and a performance by Paul Cienniwa from the Binghamton Philharmonic and Southern Tier Actors Read (S.T.A.R.).
“Donna Lupardo, [the] assemblywoman up there, she has been very supportive,” Parisi said. “She’s been instrumental in getting some funds for it and some support for it, so between her and the foundation, that’s the main players.”
The Serling statue will be constructed in Recreation Park because the screenwriter was tied there creatively.
“[Serling’s] boyhood home was about seven blocks away from there, and he has a fondness for Recreation Park,” Parisi said. “One of the classic ‘Twilight Zone’ episodes was inspired by his childhood in Binghamton and particularly in that park, so it’s the most appropriate place for this to be.”
Serling’s career as a writer had a unique trajectory. Parisi said Serling volunteered himself for war immediately after high school graduation, and was sent to the Philippines during World War II. According to Parisi, Binghamton became a symbol of Serling’s childhood and his innocence lost during World War II.
“He saw some major combat in the Philippines and he came back determined to be a writer,” Parisi said. “He began writing as a means to purge some of the war wounds.”
Serling’s accomplishments as a screenwriter are also vast. He wrote nearly 250 scripts to be produced on different media platforms, including TV and radio. Additionally, Serling is the only writer to win six Emmy awards, with many awards for best dramatic writing.
Parisi said the monument would be a major Binghamton attraction, and that the statue would be a way for the Binghamton community to return the love that Serling had for Binghamton.
“It’s going to be an about 8-foot-high statue including base, and it’s going to be him standing there with a doorway behind him,” Parisi said. “It’s going to be a major piece of work when it’s all said and done.”
The project is expected to be completed by September 2023. Parisi said there will be an unveiling afterward in spring 2024 — or during SerlingFest that year.