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Tramway Plaza Gets In Gear for Machine-Themed Public Art

UPPER EAST SIDE — A new sculpture will be on display in Tramway Plaza in May, officials said.

Carole Eisner's "Hosea" will be at the plaza, located at Second Avenue between East 59th and East Eisner streets, through November, according to Eisner and the Department of Parks and Recreation.

Eisner, who divides her time between Westport, Conn., and the Upper East Side, said the shape of the sculpture — a round, iron railroad gear balancing atop wavy, steel legs — came from time spent at a metal fabricator's workshop. She was trying to think of a way to develop a base for the gear, but her ideas kept coming up short.

"You can't weld to them," she said of this and similar gears, "so they have to be drilled. So I was having a lot of frustration."

The fabricator eventually interjected, suggesting that she seek ideas for base shapes from hoses.

"'He said, 'Why don't you do something new instead of using this scrap for a change?' He said, 'I'm going to give you some hoses and you're going to put the gear on the ground and work the hoses to make the base.'"

After she came up with an idea she liked, Eisner took photos of the legs, edited them, made a model, and then eventually turned the final schematic to the fabricator.

"In honor of the hoses, I named the sculpture 'Hosea,'" said Eisner, 75.

Eisner, who applied to have her sculpture displayed as part of a Parks Department public art program, said she was "thrilled" when her work was accepted by the city.

Department officials said the application process is rolling, but that artists should and typically submit their work approximately fix months in advance.

Eisner's work, in particular, caught the department's eye because of the element of machinery and seemed like a perfect fit, they said.

And Community Board 8 Parks Committee members seemed to agree, supporting the sculpture with two small caveats at their last meeting, group member Barbara Rudder said.

She said the committee wants lighting for security and to prevent graffiti. They also want more information on how the installation might impact a planned fountain.

"The plaza is supposed to be a fountain, and there hasn't been enough money to build a fountain," she explained. "The question is, if you can get this huge heavy statue, will it due any harm. We just want further OK from [city officials]."

For Eisner, however, Tramway Plaza was immediately a perfect fit, she said — though she was given a list of different sites where she could show her work.

"It sort of imitates the gear that's on the tramway," she said of the transit connection between the Upper East Side and Roosevelt Island. "Theres a gear that's exposed there, a beautiful gear. This gear is another manifestation of the same industrial look."

Eisner said recovered gears are a recurring motif in her artwork.

"Whenever I find them, I really really like them," she said.