The city of New York has unveiled a monument commemorating one of the city’s most persistent myths: alligators lurking in the sewers.
According to a press statement from the Union Square Partnership, the artwork depicts a life-size gator coiled around a New York City manhole cover. The bronze monument, designed by Swedish artist Alexander Klingspor, is on exhibit at Manhattan’s Union Square Park.
“The theme of this piece is the legend of the alligator in the New York City sewers.” “Having lived in Manhattan for over a decade, I wanted to pay tribute to the city I love by depicting one of its most popular urban legends,” the artist explained on his website.
“This artwork deals with two interesting aspects of our world; our need for gods, myths, and legends much like any other civilization prior to ours, and our habit of creating invasive species by moving animals from their natural habitats to human environments,” he went on to say.
The sculpture is appropriately labeled “N.Y.C Legend.” According to the Union Square Partnership, the artwork will be on exhibit until June 2024.
According to the news release, the artwork was constructed in collaboration with the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation and the Union Square Partnership and was sponsored by the Swedish Mollbrinks Gallery.
Owning alligators is against state and city law in New York. The cold-blooded reptiles are found in the wild in the southeastern United States and are native to warmer areas.
Despite this, alligators are occasionally seen in New York, such as the gator recovered earlier this year from a lagoon in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park. The lizard was confirmed to be an escaped pet and perished despite efforts at the Bronx Zoo to rehabilitate it.
Rumors of alligators in sewers appear to have originated in the 1930s when The New York Times claimed that “youths” in Harlem had spotted an alligator in the sewage and swiftly beat it to death.