By Yepoka Yeebo
MIDTOWN WEST — After a year in its Hell's Kitchen location, Tom Otterness' sculpture that doubles as a jungle gym is a huge hit with neighborhood kids and their parents.
Otterness, an artist known for his recent Google homepage appearance, along with those little brass sculptures at the 14th Street station and Eighth Avenue subway station, unveiled the sculpture in May, 2009 at a public park in front Larry Silverstein's Silver Towers on W. 42nd Street.
Aptly titled 'Playground,' the sculpture of a man has slides for legs, seats for hands and arms a child can shimmy up with ease.
"I come here every day," said Lower East Side nanny Maria Rodriguez, 59. Rodriguez visits the sculpture with her 3-year-old charge Soraya, who she said took several visits before she could bring herself to go down the slide.
"I like the slide now," Sorya piped up, before running toward a nearby sprinkler and stepping on the switch.
Otterness hired a safety consultant to make sure sculpture was kid-friendly, and placed it in the shade so the metal does not heat up like the Union Square climbing dome.
"My kids love it, I love it," said Lawrence Hargraves, 28, who lives nearby in Midtown. Hargraves pointed to Lanet, 8, who was shimmying up the arm of the giant brass man, and Lawrence, 3, who was running around the sculpture.
"They call it the 'big head,'" he said. "It's so much more relaxing than your regular park."
Otterness' Life Underground series at 14th Street famously features a crocodile dragging a brass man into a man hole. Other installations in Manhattan include several creatures dotted around Battery Park, the little brass men surround the doorways of the Hilton Hotel at Times Square and a huge brass frog that lives on the playground of P.S. 20 in the Lower East Side.
"Playground," is the fourth in a series of six. The first three have been installed in the homes of art collectors around the country, and one briefly graced the Google homepage last week.