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Nude Sculpture to Have Hundreds of Feathered Admirers in Filthy Park

By Amy Zimmer | July 14, 2011 6:40am | Updated on July 14, 2011 7:27am

UPPER EAST SIDE — The reclining nude who's moving into the tiny Tramway Plaza will attract the attention of hundreds of unwanted admirers.

The sculpture by late French artist Gaston Lachaise will relax in the south east of the greenspace where the Roosevelt Island tram lands at 59th Street and Second Avenue — because the rest of the park is too overrun by pigeons.

But the art work, due to arrive for a year in August, is still likely to double as a bird perch. The pigeons covered the whole park on recent Wednesday afternoon, chasing after chunks of bagels that park-goers left for them.

"We've gone to many parks, and this is the dirtiest one that we've seen" — because of the pigeons — "and this is a major hub of New York City," said visitor George Green, 74.

Green moved to the East 50s with his wife from the Bronx less than eight months ago. "I'd think this is high society, but the Bronx is cleaner," he said.

He and his wife spend their days walking to such parks as Dag Hammarskjold or Rockefeller Plaza, which he said were cleaner.

"It's the birds and the people. You can't blame the birds," he said. "If someone cleaned this up, you wouldn't have this."

The spot, facing the mouth of the Ed Koch Queensboro Bridge and the busy Second Avenue, has signs posted on fences — which residents said were put up in the spring — saying, "Feed a pigeon, breed a rat."

That sign didn't stop a woman Green described as a "bag lady" from dropping food for the birds before walking away.

Despite Green's displeasure with the pigeons, he has continued to return to Tramway Plaza, he admitted.

The busy thoroughfare was not the first choice for the Lachaise Foundation to put the artist's nude sculpture, but its curator Paula Hornbostel recently told Community Board 8's parks committee that it will hopefully remind visitors "of some bucolic setting."

Mark Vaccaro told board members the statue was being placed in the south corner because "the northern section of the park has a bird problem."

A.Scott Falk, who has lived across the street from the park for 14 years, said there have been pigeons and pigeon lovers in this spot even before the plaza was built nearly four years ago — and not just at the northern end.

"I see people feeding the birds at the southern end of the park, too," he said. "The pigeons do tend to cluster more at the northern end because it's busier and dirtier."

Falk, a frequent park visitor, said the pigeons do "detract from the pleasant nature of the park, but there's not much you can do — other than the Parks Department having a bigger budget. [The signs are] about the extent of what they've been able to do in trying to deter it."

Luckily, he hasn't seen rats. He has, however, seen mice, but considers them "adorable."

"We do have signs," reiterated Parks Department spokesman Phil Abramson, "but it's not something we're going to issue summonses for. It's not something we're going to send extra staff to enforce."