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Designs for Chinatown 'Gateway' Art Structure Being Sought by City

By Allegra Hobbs | April 19, 2017 10:16pm
 The city is now seeking proposals for a piece of public art that would serve as a gateway to the neighborhood of Chinatown.
The city is now seeking proposals for a piece of public art that would serve as a gateway to the neighborhood of Chinatown.
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New York City Department of Transportation

CHINATOWN — The city is now accepting applications from designers to craft a public art piece to signal the entrance to Chinatown — part of a larger initiative to create artistic markers for several points of entry to the neighborhood.

The Gateways to Chinatown initiative, launched by the Department of Transportation in partnership with the Chinatown Partnership and design firm the Van Alen Institute, on Wednesday began seeking pitches for a new structure to rise at the pedestrian triangle at Canal, Baxter and Walker streets — one of seven spots recognized as significant points of entry to Chinatown, according to organizers.

“Canal Street, one of New York City’s busiest thoroughfares, deserves a culturally significant gateway that can welcome the millions of shoppers and tourists that annually flock to the pulsing streets of Chinatown and Little Italy,” said Department of Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg in a statement.

"We look forward to the range of ideas of how we can transform this one central triangle into a dynamic landmark and public space that will befit the vitality of this area.”

The new piece will be both artistic and functional, said the department's director of urban design, replacing the outdated kiosk at the triangle with a public art piece using interactive technology.

"We’ve been encouraging the design to be interactive," said Neil Gagliardi.

"Currently there's a kiosk on the site that has been there for a while, it's kind of outmoded...We're really asking for proposals that address that need."

The city has put out a Request for Proposals (RFP) to rehabilitate the space and will be accepting applications until June 19. A design team will be selected in the fall, with the design phase of the marker kicking off the following year.

The remaining Chinatown "gateways" — important entrances identified through community engagement by the Chinatown Partnership — will get temporary installations as well, according to the initiative website. 

A map showing the seven gateways to Chinatown as identified through community engagement by the Chinatown Partnership. (New York City Department of Transportation)

Those portals, were chosen because they mark the places where Chinatown meets other neighborhoods as well as connections to transportation and public space. They're located at Grand and Chrystie streets, the Manhattan Bridge Landing near Canal Street and the Bowery, Division Street under the Manhattan Bridge, Kimlau Square, Worth and Centre streets, and Pearl Street under the Brooklyn Bridge.

The Canal Street triangle, which connects Chinatown to Little Italy, was identified as the most central to the neighborhood, said Gagliardi.

"The overall comprehensive plan really identified seven significant places around the district, and this one in particular is really focusing on the most significant in the center," he said. "But we hope it will be the beginning of many different nodes."

The installation of important neighborhood portals has been championed by community members for decades, and the launch of the project is the culmination of years of planning among the three organizers through public forums and gathering community feedback.