On an Upper East Side street — occupied by neatly manicured brownstones where planter boxes are as common as little dogs on leashes and where children who attend P.S. 6 frolic after school — stands a white, 3-foot plaster statute of a foot.
The foot is anchored to the top of a big white wooden box, apparently used to conceal garbage bins, outside of 54 East 81st St., a white five-story apartment building between Madison and Park avenues.
The foot is a right one. It has all five of its toes and part of an ankle. It’s covered in bird droppings, which could be considered some sort of unfortunate foot fungus.
“This thing is so cool,” a little girl told her buddy, as if she were the expert on the thing. “Around Halloween time, I found streamers and stuff on it.”
Other neighbors and regular passersby consider the foot some sort of art installation, but no one knows exactly why it was erected or what it signifies.
“I just assumed it was a podiatrist’s office,” said Bob Robbins, who lives a few brownstones down.
Anna Fernandez, a teacher’s aid across the street at Lillie Devereaux Blake, P.S. 6, had a different take.
“I thought it was part of a tree trunk that didn’t get cut down,” she said.
It seems everyone has a guess.
Some heard the foot is a companion piece to a hand hiding somewhere on the Upper East Side. Others mentioned that it’s probably a replica of the Colossus of Constantine, which resides in the Courtyard of the Palazzo dei Conservatori in the Musei Capitolini in Rome.
A mother walking her daughter home from school said it’s been there for seven years, as long as her daughter has attended P.S. 6. Two women who frequent Madison Avenue to shop said it’s new and they’d never seen it before.
One man swore a Spanish sculptor made the foot. Another man said the foot rotates and sometimes faces south instead of north.
Even people who live in the building don’t know its purpose. A fourth-floor tenant, Francesca Miste, said the owner of the building might know the person who made it, but she doesn’t. Miste said she just gets a kick out of telling her friends she lives next to a unique landmark.
“They all know where I live,” she said. “It feels good. It’s nice to have something different. Some people like it. Some people don’t.”
Among those who like it is neighbor Susan Bahary.
“It makes me smile every time I pass it,” she said.
Among those who don’t is a woman who goes by the name Dee. She said she doesn’t see the value in the piece of “art.”
“I don’t see the meaning of it,” she said as she laughed and shrugged her shoulders. “It’s a foot.”
The foot is a block away from New York City’s famed Metropolitan Museum of Art on 81st Street and Fifth Avenue. The museum is visible from the foot’s location. Manhattanite Dan Caspe was headed there when he encountered the statue.
“I think it’s a bold statement to put it near The Met,” Caspe said. “You’ve got to be brave to do that.”
The foot is undoubtedly a conversation piece, or at least something that brings attention to the area.
The tenant who lives in the brownstone adjacent to the statue is moving out, according construction worker Patrick Prendergast, whose company, RD Rice Construction, is remodeling the inside. He joked maybe all the attention from the foot ran the tenant out.
As for Prendergast, he is fan of the big foot.
“I think its just cool,” he said.