In 2015, Untapped New York writer Thomas Hynes asked a pressing question to a representative of the NYC Department of Environmental Protection. “Are there now or have there ever been alligators in the New York City sewer system?”
Legend has it that in the early 20th century, wealthy New Yorkers would vacation to warm states like Louisiana and Florida, bringing back with them baby alligators as souvenirs. Once these gators got bigger and their owners realized New York was not the appropriate home for them, they would be flushed down the toilet to live and reproduce in our city sewer system. Despite the response that came back from the Department denying any existence of sewer alligators, New Yorkers have remained fascinated with this mythical concept.
The myth comes back to life with a new statue unveiled on Tuesday, October 17th; a life-sized bronze alligator perched on the back of a manhole lid. This piece of alligator art, titled NYC Legend, was crafted by Swedish artist Alexander Klingspor, famous for his gorgeous bronze work. A smaller version of the gator was displayed at the 2022 London Art Fair, only now having the full-sized piece unveiled in exactly the city where it belongs.
In Klingspor’s description of the sculpture, he says that it’s inspired by two themes he noticed in our world. The first is the fact that our civilization still very much needs gods and mythical creatures as did the humans that came before us. Our natural desire for the supernatural is simply not as visible as it once was, but it surely still exists in the backdrop (or sewers) of our daily lives. The second theme aims at exposing our modern habit of taking animals out of their natural environment and putting them where we see fit, creating an endless cycle of invasive species.
Alligators themselves have made themselves an integral part of mythology spanning thousands of years, symbolizing survival and the ability to regrow and adapt. New Yorkers have consistently proven they have the thick skin of a gator- through a pandemic, economic downfall, a terrorist attack, and beyond. Klingspor’s statue is a personification of this resilient New York spirit.
At the Thompson Central Park New York, a short distance uptown from Union Square, there is a highly-anticipated public art exhibition featuring more of Klingspor’s work where visitors can also get a behind-the-scenes into the artist’s creative process of bringing NYC Legend to life. This exhibition will be on display within the hotel’s newly unveiled ground floor atrium through November. The alligator sculpture, NYC Legends, will be on display in Union Square’s Triangle Park through June 2024.
Underground NYC Subway Tour