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Improv Group Takes Credit for Fifth Avenue 'Tourist Lane'

By DNAinfo Staff on June 9, 2010 2:58pm

By Olivia Scheck

DNAinfo Reporter/Producer

LOWER MANHATTAN — After weeks of neighborhood theorizing, the pranksters who painted two separate walking lanes on lower Fifth Avenue — one for slow-moving tourists, the other for high-speed New Yorkers — finally fessed up this week.

To the surprise of few people in the neighborhood, the lanes were the work of a New York-based performance group, Improv Everywhere, which is dedicated to creating "scenes of chaos and joy in public places."

The episode began in May with the appearance of the walking lanes and signs instructing tourists to walk on one side and New Yorkers on the other.

The Department of Transportation removed the unauthorized signage, but not before it was seen by four days' worth of passersby, according to Improv Everywhere

The prank was so widely reported that Mayor Michael Bloomberg spoke about it in a press conference.

A video of the prank has been posted on YouTube. The mini-documentary  features  Improv Everywhere "agents" Dan Black, Don Fanelli and Jeff Greensan posing as workers for the Department of Transportation as they stenciled the words "Tourist" and "New Yorkers" onto the sidewalk and drew a white line Fifth Avenue.

When the roadwork had been competed, Black and Fanelli remained in character, wearing orange vests and instructing pedestrians on proper use of the lanes.

"If you're a tourist, please stay on the left-hand side," Fanelli told a man with a backpack at one point in the video. "We're trying to increase traffic flow."

"I walk pretty fast, though," the tourist protested, but the performers would have none of it.

"Nah, it doesn't matter," Black told the visitor.

Later in the video, a third Improv agent, Cody Lindquist, entered the scene, posing as a DOT employee and polling passersby about their thoughts on the sidewalk divider.

"As a New Yorker, I appreciate this," one local told the Improv Everywhere crew.

"The Tourist Lane" is Improv Everwhere's most recent "mission," according to the group's website. Before that they turned heads at the New York Public Library on 42nd Street, when they reenacted a scene from the classic film Ghostbusters.