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BPCA Rejects Bronze Lion Sculptures From Tom Otterness

By Julie Shapiro

DNAinfo Reporter/Producer

BATTERY PARK CITY — Bronze lions won't roar outside the Battery Park City Library anytime soon, after a state agency nixed a proposal to place them there last week.

The donated lions, by sculptor Tom Otterness, would violate rules that prohibit the Battery Park City Authority from receiving gifts, President Gayle Horwitz said in a June 29 letter to Community Board 1.

"It's not a matter of anyone at the Battery Park City Authority liking the sculpture or not liking the sculpture," Anne Fenton, Horwitz's assistant, said Tuesday. "It's about following the public authorities law."

Horwitz also said the authority could not accept the lions because they did not go through a formal review process and because Otterness is using an anonymous donor to fund them.

CB1 members who overwhelmingly supported the project at a meeting in April said they were disappointed by the authority's decision.

"This is a slap in the face to the community," said Tom Goodkind, a longtime Battery Park City resident who first suggested the lion sculpture several years ago.

Otterness has already designed the bronze sculpture, which would consist of a pair of 5-foot-tall lions guarding the entrance of the North End Avenue library while a handful of cubs play at their feet.

While many residents said the playful artwork would be a good addition to the neighborhood, others raised concerns earlier this year about Otterness' past.

Before becoming a renowned sculptor whose work is ubiquitous in New York's parks and public spaces, Otterness shot and killed an adopted dog for a 1977 art film. He has since apologized, but some downtown dog lovers said he did not deserve to have more sculptures displayed in Battery Park City.

Otterness released a statement Wednesday saying he "look[s] forward to working with the BPCA to resolve any procedural issues so we can get to work."

CB1's Battery Park City Committee voted Tuesday night to ask the authority for detailed guidelines on how to get approval for a new public art project for the neighborhood.

Before the meeting, Harold Reed, chairman of CB1's Arts & Entertainment Task Force, said that while it's always important to follow the rules, he doesn't want the authority to look a gift lion in the mouth.

"People would love it," Reed said of the sculpture. "The whole area would be enhanced. It would be a focal point for Battery Park City."

Mike Devereaux, with his dogs Kuro and Mia, spoke against the Tom Otterness sculptures Tuesday night.
Mike Devereaux, with his dogs Kuro and Mia, spoke against the Tom Otterness sculptures Tuesday night.
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DNAinfo/Julie Shapiro