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'People have seen mammaries before': What New Yorkers on their side of the Portal make of it all

Adam Daly – a former The Journal reporter now based in New York – stopped by the re-opened installation.


THE CROWDS GATHERED in Midtown’s Flatiron Plaza let out a collective groan yesterday as the art installation connecting New York City and Dublin via livestream powered down at 4pm sharp.

Now behind a guardrail and manned by security guards and a portal ‘ambassador’, the linkup is only streaming between 6am and 4pm New York time in a bid to curb unwelcome behaviour and encourage a friendlier connection between the two cities.

Following numerous incidents, including a man on the Dublin side pulling down his trousers and mooning New Yorkers, local authorities decided to pull the plug on the livestream last week while they came up with “technical solutions” to combat bad behaviour.

The changes that have been implemented mean we’ll no longer have a scenario where New Yorkers on their way to the pub at 8pm virtually encounter Dubliners on their way home (or, indeed, on their way to the late bar) at midnight.

The mood amongst spectators in New York yesterday was that the measures taken to control interactions risk “diluting the fun” and are not necessary, for the most part.

“I think they went overboard because what’s the big deal if some model wants to flash people,” said Dave Popple of Manhattan, in response to the viral incident of an OnlyFans model flashing her breasts to the Irish crowd before the portal’s initial shutdown.

Popple believes the main incident that offended the New York side was when someone in Dublin approached the portal and displayed a picture of the World Trade Center towers burning in the 9/11 attacks., creators of the technology, introduced a new feature during the temporary pause of the system to blur the stream if someone attempts a similar act.

Dave and his wife Jody were out for a run yesterday afternoon but arrived too late at their finish line to see the livestream. The couple both agreed that the security aspect is overkill, suggesting that the crowd could correct any bad behaviours if people get too out of hand.

“Maybe there’s some concern about some of those interactions playing out but I think this is meant to be evocative and uniting,” said Jody. Dave added that, culturally, New Yorkers police themselves pretty well.

“If somebody’s doing something stupid, it’s very likely a New Yorker will say something first before the security will be able to say anything,” he said.

Dave and Jody "I think this is meant to be evocative and uniting" - Dave and Jody at the Portal yesterday. Adam Daly Adam Daly

Currently, the New Yorker charged with policing the crowd is the on-duty portal ambassador. Jerrod Henderson was the first to perform that role yesterday afternoon, acting as a buffer between the portal and the public to keep interactions “light and positive.”

“If you want to do naughty stuff, I suggest you do it from the comfort of your own home,” he told The Journal.

Mostly, Henderson serves as an MC who jovially encourages spectators to wave and dance, breaking briefly from that role to corral the crowd between the designated ground markings.

Should an ‘incident’ arise, his first protocol is to try to ameliorate the situation himself before calling on the dedicated security team.

The closest thing to an ‘incident’ yesterday, he said, was when someone on the New York side threw up the middle finger – though he believes it was a response to a signal from Dublin.

“I’m pretty good at defusing things, so we don’t have to worry too much about security for now, and we hope to keep it that way,” Henderson continued, noting that the first day back online was “wonderful”.

‘Cheers and handstands’

The view from the New York side was mostly of smiles, waves and some dancing but no exposed body parts – except for one Dubliner who briefly ditched his t-shirt to do a handstand, summoning a cheer from onlookers.

“Who’s getting this number,” Henderson said to the crowd as he relayed the digits being provided by a romantic on the Dublin side – one of many phone number swaps throughout the day.

From watching the screen since it went live at 9am, he reckoned the Irish were just as excited as the Americans for the relaunch, “and I would like to hope and believe that they’re going to keep that energy.”

The day also brought out some Irish holiday makers trying to connect with loved ones at home.

Kevin Kenny from Blackrock in Dublin said he was inundated with text messages from his children at home telling him to add the portal to his itinerary.

Being on the tourist beat while on his bucket-list trip to New York, he thought the new security measures made sense, if only for crowd control.

“Like any of the tourist spots, it’s going to get crowded. At least with security people can take their turn, get a picture,” he said, also seeing the benefit in the shorter streaming hours, saying jokingly: “It definitely will have an effect on the Dublin side, I can’t speak for New Yorkers.”

Brooklynites Francesca and Tamsi – with their dog, Otter, in tow – were previously unaware of the new measures. 

“If it is super controlled I think it feels less organic,” Tamsi said.

“And that organic nature means that there will be people showing their boobs and holding up photos of the Twin Towers.”

“There’s trolls everywhere. It’s a portal, people are going to do dumb shit in every city,” said Francesca, adding that “being topless is legal in New York – we can show the best of ourselves to Ireland.”

Francesa, Tamsi Otter "There's trolls everywhere" - Francesca, Tamsi and their dog Otter Adam Daly Adam Daly

‘People have seen mammaries’

The issue of nudity on the big screen also did not faze Beth, a local resident of the area in her 70s who stumbled upon the portal and hung around to watch.

“I was doing errands and I was like, ‘it’s the portal that I saw on the news with the woman lifting her shirt up, misbehaving,’ which I don’t think is such a terrible thing, by the way. I mean, people have seen mammaries, you know,” she said.

“Everyone seems to be having a great time, so I think it’s wonderful. And people on the other side look like they’re loving it, too. I don’t see a downside.

“This was just an empty plaza with people sitting in it and now it’s a fun thing,” she added.

This sentiment was shared by a lot of locals who stopped by the plaza even after the portal’s bedtime.

“I think people need a nanny,” joked Michael, a local of Lower Manhattan who arrived just as the portal was switched off yesterday afternoon.

“It doesn’t bother me if someone’s going to pull their pants down and moon the camera. But I can see how other people would be bothered, but that’s just a couple of people.”

The new operating hours caught many off-guard – their disappointment was occasionally audible over the hum of Fifth Avenue’s stream of traffic as they made the sad realisation.

Even while it was offline yesterday evening, eyes and phones were pointed at the blank screen. The portal’s spell was only briefly broken by some regularly strange New York happenings. At one point everyone turned their focus to a man passing through the plaza with two rabbits on a platter, before the portal sucked them back in.

One latecomer was Arianna from Florida, who happily took selfies with the blank screen after being led there by the installation’s online reputation.

“I just wanted to see it,” she said, planning to return before she leaves New York, though slightly less enthusiastic after hearing about the new security measures.

“It will definitely dilute the fun,” she added.

Others meanwhile were just happy to see the installation in person. Amy Burkett and her mother Teri Murdoch were visiting NYC from Florida and had been encouraged by Amy’s 11-year-son to make sure they saw the portal.

“We’re going to get some videos so we’ll be the cool people who knew what was going on,” Amy said.

New Yorkers Kristen and Jack Cullen came by in the hopes of seeing some of the carry-on they witnessed online, describing the new set-up as “lame”.

“We’ve been passing by a lot so we’re glad it’s open,” said Jack.

“I think it would be more fun to be able to go up close, and allow people to do funny stuff at the camera that’s not inappropriate.”

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