Are there alligators lurking in NYC sewers? New statue in Union Square Park commemorates myth

ByZoe Sottile, CNNWire
Monday, October 23, 2023
Union Square alligator sculpture pays homage to NYC urban myth
The Swedish artist behind the sculpture says it highlights society's need for legends by bringing animals into human environments.

NEW YORK -- New York City has unveiled a sculpture paying homage to one of the city's most enduring myths: Alligators lurking in the sewers.

The sculpture shows a life-size gator wrapped around a New York City manhole cover, according to a news release from the Union Square Partnership. Designed by Swedish artist Alexander Klingspor, the bronze statue is on display at Union Square Park in Manhattan.

"The theme of this piece is depicting the legend of the alligator in the NYC sewers. Having lived over a decade in Manhattan I wanted to pay tribute to the city I love by depicting one of its most popular urban legends," said the artist on his website.

"This artwork deals with two interesting aspects of our world; our need for gods, myths, and legends much like any other civilization prior to ours, and our habit of creating invasive species by moving animals from their natural habitats to human environments," he said.

Fittingly, the sculpture is entitled "N.Y.C Legend." The piece will be on display until June 2024, according to the Union Square Partnership. The artwork was created in partnership with New York City Department of Parks and Recreation and Union Square Partnership, and funded by Swedish Mollbrinks Gallery, according to the news release.

It is illegal to own alligators under New York state and city law. The cold-blooded reptiles are native to warmer climates and are found in the wild in the southeastern US.

Despite this, alligators occasionally turn up in the Big Apple, like the gator rescued from a lake in Brooklyn's Prospect Park earlier this year. The reptile was determined to be an escaped pet and died despite efforts to rehabilitate it at the Bronx Zoo.

Rumors about alligators in the sewers seem to date back to at least the 1930s, when The New York Times reported "youths" in Harlem had discovered an alligator in the sewer and promptly beat it to death.

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