Flatiron snowmen are not what they seem

The marble snowmen statues were designed by artist Peter Regli. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

The marble snowmen statues were designed by artist Peter Regli. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

With the Flatiron Pedestrian Plaza having become a hotspot for businesses looking to promote themselves through events and displays, a more recent use of the space at 23rd Street and Fifth Avenue — as the home to a group of 12 snowmen — feels like a breath of fresh air, albeit a below freezing one with a blast of slush courtesy of passing cars.

But upon taking a closer look at the multi-sized Frostys, passersby have been discovering that they aren’t made of snow at all, but marble, and are part of a city-organized art installation. The snowmen are in fact “Snow Monsters,” designed by artist Peter Regli as part of his “Reality Hacking” series of exhibits.

The snowmen, even up close, look pretty close to the real thing, as they’re built to show various stages of melting and are different sizes. They also are all positioned to face south towards the Flatiron Building across the street. They were fabricated in Da Nang, Vietnam, by the Hánh family, who specialize in crafting traditional marble statues for Buddhist temples.

The installation was commissioned by the Department of Transportation, which is working alongside the Flatiron/23rd Street Partnership.

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CB5 hopes to curtail promotional events on plazas

One of numerous promotional events to take place at the Flatiron Pedestrian Plaza last summer (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

One of numerous promotional events to take place at the Flatiron Pedestrian Plaza last summer (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot
Since the city’s pedestrian plazas made their debut in 2009, along with being a peaceful destination for those seeking a place to sit outside – albeit inches from traffic — they’ve also become big business for companies looking to hawk products to passersby.

That ongoing commercialization of the public spaces is the source of some contention for representatives of Community Board 5, who, after hearing about a concert planned for the Flatiron Pedestrian Plaza that’s expected to draw a crowd of 10,000, made their displeasure known to the mayor.

The event is planned for February 12 at the north plaza and will require setup for three days prior to it taking place.

This was the topic of discussion held at a CB5 Parks Committee meeting last Monday, according to Jack Taylor, a member of the committee who attended and said he was against it, and that the rest of his fellow members spoke against it as well.

“It stunned everybody,” said Taylor. “They are planning for an audience of 10,000 people largely in but overflowing from the pedestrian plaza on the west side of Madison Square Park. It’s very alarming and massive and if it’s as described or proposed, it’s going to be very hard for pedestrians and drivers and just about anyone in the district.”

Exactly a week after the meeting, CB5’s chair, Vikki Barbero, along with Clayton Smith, chair of the Parks and Public Spaces Committee, penned a letter to the mayor to ask why community boards don’t get any say in the arranging of such commercial events. Meanwhile the city’s Street Activity and Permit Office apparently has sole discretion.

“The Department of Transportation created the pedestrian plaza network and is the city agency responsible for their oversight,” wrote Barbero and Smith. “The area BIDs were chosen to activate, administer and protect these plazas. Why, then, has the Street Activity Permit Office been given the sole discretion to make final determinations of what special events are appropriate for these public spaces?”

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