Here’s Why DOT Shouldn’t Move Forward with Hated Chinatown ‘Gateway’ Art Design [OP-ED]

Posted on: October 18th, 2019 at 5:04 am by

The winning design, Photo: DOT

A glimmer of hope came over me last month when I was informed that Department of Transportation would delay its presentation to Community Board 3 regarding the controversial Chinatown “Gateway” marker. I was cautiously optimistic that Linda Lee’s “Dragon’s Roar” design would be scrapped due to unanimous local outrage and opposition, and that the selection process could restart with actual community partner involvement.

As I sat in on one of several community roundtables hosted by the DOT to address concerns, my disappointment returned. The agency already made its decision, choosing to stick with the foolhardy “Dragon’s Roar” design. This particular meeting appeared little more than a validation session similar to the Chinatown jail outreach the mayor’s office held. Once again, the city has ignored the community and shoved their agenda down our throats.

Prior to attending the roundtable, however, I obtained renderings for 30 of the 82 RFP submissions for the project. I found several that are more appropriate for Chinatown’s Federal and New York State historical district designation. The “Dragon Phoenix” proposal by Kwong Von Glinow would be my pick as it best reflects the cultural character of this crucial crossroads.

Let’s take a look at what we’re stuck with. The “Dragon’s Roar” submission presented was misleading, trying to pass off a Thai pagoda for a Chinese Drum Tower. Images in the deck showed the pagoda with Thai dancers in the foreground. Initially I had thought the “drum tower” referred to a signal tower used in ancient China outside city walls to signal an invasion by enemies. Researching “drum tower,” I found a Wikipedia reference which contained fresh pictures of a drum performance which was uploaded in July of this year, so it’s conceivable someone has been busy laying groundwork to justify the “Dragon’s Roar” as culturally appropriate to fulfill RFP requirements. (The same slide included reference to an Italian Bell Tower.)

Regardless, at the end of the day, it’s quite clear that the city continues to use it’s ass-backwards approach to “community engagement.”

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