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More than 100K Visitors Expected to go Eye-to-Eye With Columbus

By Emily Frost | August 15, 2012 6:47am

COLUMBUS CIRCLE — More than 100,000 visitors are expected to see eye-to-eye with Christopher Columbus next month as an art installation prepares to open.

Scaffolding and metal gates are in place, closing off access to the pedestrian plaza on Columbus Circle as preparations begin for the piece.

For eight weeks, viewers will climb 70-feet to be at face level with the statue of America's founder.

The viewing area will be a "living room" built six stories above the streets by Japanese artist Tatzu Nishi.

The entrance to the exhbit, where the line will form, is at the northwest section of the circle, next to the entrance to the Shops at Columbus Circle, the 1 train and the A,C,B and D subway lines — an area near the Trump Tower that's already occupied by five food cart vendors and a huge population of daily commuters.

The free exhibit's sponsors, the Public Art Fund, said they're trying to anticipate congestion issues by using a computerized ticketing system that allows visitors to reserve tickets online for visits on the half hour between 10 a.m. and 9 p.m. daily. 

However, a spokeswoman conceded that the plan for staffing, lines and security is something "we're going to be developing as we go."

The Columbus Circle subway station is the seventh most-trafficked in the city with 21.3 million customers entering in 2011.

This fall, H&M will open a store at the Shops at Columbus Circle, with a designated men's shop as well as its women's and children's lines, presumably making the mall an even more popular destination. 

The exhibition will let visitors in in groups of 25 to 30. They'll climb six flights of stairs and enter a "living room," complete with a sofa, TV set, coffee table and lamps — along with views of Central Park, Midtown and Columbus himself.

The fund can't anticipate how much time people will spend at the exhibit. With a real couch to enjoy and sweeping views, visitors may dawdle, logjamming the line. Exhibit planners hope to keep the flow of visitors moving.  

The fund's spokeswoman said that the view "should be pretty beautiful at night," and encouraged visitors to make multiple visits to experience the exhibit at different times of day. 

The free installation opens September 20 and will run through November 18.