Chinatown residents want to kick the city’s $1 million “tin can” art installation far down the road.
A year after community barking killed a city-installed “Dog-Man” statue, officials are floating another public sculpture that residents say has no connection to their Chinese heritage.
The city Department of Transportation unveiled the blueprints for the abstract metal artwork earlier this month.
Activist and Community Board 2 member Karlin Chan likened it to “a bunch of stacked-up tin cans.”
Designed by Lindy Lee, an Australian artist of Chinese heritage, the installation would feature eight perforated cylinders that extend vertically, towering above the trees and surrounding buildings, a rendering shows.
“It’s not representative of our cultures, which it is supposed to honor,” said Chan, 62. “When I first saw the rendering, I was like ‘Are we kidding? Didn’t they learn anything from the Dog-Man fiasco?’”
Wellington Chen, executive director of the Chinatown Partnership, blasted critics of the installation, which will be funded by a federal grant created to spur economic development after 9/11.
“The guy that caused all this trouble, Bin Laden, is laughing in his grave,” Chen seethed. “He wants to cause us to live in disagreements.”
Chen said he hopes the installation will bring the foot traffic Chinatown merchants have been “pleading for.”
The sculpture would mark the “Gateways to Chinatown” at the public plaza where Canal Street forks and Walker Street begins.
Literature about the installation explains that “in Chinese culture, concentric circles are used as a powerful visualization of the state of ‘being’ in the world: the self and the individual are positioned at the center.”
But critics don’t see the connection.
“That tin can thing? Ugh. Ew,” Chinatown businessman King Wong scoffed when he saw the rendering. “Do Chinese men pick up tin cans in New York City for a living or something?”
Community stakeholders claim they were left in the dark about the selection process, and are gearing up to protest the installation before Community Board 2 votes on it in September.
“The DOT should stop the clock on this thing, and open it up to school children or include more community partners,” said Chan, noting the sculpture invokes memories of the fury surrounding the 900-pound Dog-Man sculpture that was slated for Kimlau Square.
“In Chinese folklore a dog-man is a demon. Half-man, half-dog, which is a demon,” he said.
The giant bronze statue of a man in a suit with a dog’s head holding a red apple was eventually moved to Foley Square.
Chinatown artist Tomie Arai said the sculpture controversies are just the latest public insults against the Chinese community.
“This is a rather flawed process and one more example how the Chinatown community is not consulted on a number of issues ranging from the new jail to the whole controversy around high school specialized exams,” Arai said. “It’s just one more thing that’s caused a lot of anger and concern.”
The DOT, along with the Van Alen Institute of Architecture and the Chinatown Partnership, selected “The Dragon’s Roar” from 80 submissions.
The DOT said the design is “conceptual.”
“We will consider feedback and determine next steps,” said spokesman Scott Gastel.