Tourists viewing Washington Square stop cold. New Yorkers do, too – even jaded ones, impatient ones, “I’m-walkin’-here!” ones. Street performers, panhandlers, passing cops – they prevent and stand before the south part of the Washington Arch and watch.
The best vantage indicate observe this phenomenon is nearby the southeast corner of the arch, looking up toward Fifth Avenue as unsuspecting people walk closer. They notice a group staring and cell phones pointing at the arch, and invariably flip to see why.
A few feet off the bottom, a statue has been mounted on the arch, its hands overhead clutching a little ledge, feet resting on another below. The statue is certainly short, not 5-feet high, and classical to look at, a bare-chested male with a garb around his waist. It is the same marble gray as the looming city landmark that helps its weight.
Then the statue moves.
Jaws get slack. There are tiny, startled squeals, calm curses. In fact it is not really as though this type of thing is brand-new – “living statues,” because they are known, are common in European countries, and there are some in New York City. But none are very like this one.