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Thieves Steal Dozens of the Odd DOT Signs That Have Mystified New Yorkers

By Trevor Kapp | August 7, 2014 10:12pm
 The signs are featured on light poles at five Summer Streets rest stops along Park Avenue.
Bizarre DOT Street Signs
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MIDTOWN — Thieves have stolen dozens of the bizarre street signs that were hung only two weeks ago by the Department of Transportation and feature head-scratching images of skulls, oozing clouds and coat hangers.

Of the 50 signs that the DOT fastened to street lamps around Manhattan on July 24, 40 had been taken within the first 72 hours, officials said.

"DOT is working closely with NYPD to resolve the issue. We replaced 12 of the missing signs and altered the installation method," a DOT spokesman said. "What a shame that this beautiful public art was stolen."

One of the red-ringed white signs still hanging depicts a black silhouette of a human-looking form with a spray-bottle head, stretching strings between its fingers beneath a cloud that's dripping black goo.

Another features a pair of cubic human faces under a plant that's sprouting skulls instead of flowers.

The stolen signs are worth more than $800, a DOT spokesman said.

They had been installed on posts at Summer Streets rest sites in late July — including at Foley Square, Astor Place, 25th and Park, 32nd and Park and 52nd and Park — in what it hoped "encourages Summer Streets participants to explore and dissect the artwork to find hidden forms, messages and meanings,” according to a DOT spokesman.

“The artwork uses the aesthetic of the sign itself and transforms it to present … personal, surreal and poetic concepts,” a DOT spokesman added of the signs, created by artist Ryan McGinness.

The signs are intended to examine “the way signage employs simple iconic pictograms to convey information to the public,” according to the DOT.

They will remain up on the poles until Summer Streets wraps up at the end of this month, DOT officials said.

Some New Yorkers said the art was too abstract for their taste.

“It’s creepy,” said food-truck worker Arturo Macedo, 36, of Bayside, Queens, pointing up at a coat hanger sign at 52nd Street and Park Avenue. “It’s like Egyptian code. What, are we supposed to hang our clothes up there?"

Phil Anthony, 46, who works in advertising, said the pictograms also left him in the dark.

“What the hell is that?” Anthony asked, staring intently at one of the signs on 52nd Street and Park Avenue. “It makes no sense to me. I could sit here all day and it’d still make no sense."

But Tory Rust, 22, a fashion photographer from the Upper East Side, praised the creativity.

“I like modern art. It’s different,” she said. “New York should be full of art in the street."