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New Yorkers on the ‘Portal’ link to Dublin: ‘Pretty cool, just don’t tell anyone you seen us dancing’

Art project on North Earl Street provides a 24/7 live stream between the two cities

Dublin and New York have just been linked up via a 24-hour live stream as part of the Portals art project. Video: Ronan McGreevy

Marty and Angelo from the Bronx were not good dancers. It didn’t really matter, though, because the girls whose attention they were trying to attain were nearly 5,000km away.

When they did respond to their moves, though, joining in at the ‘C’, in their silent rendition of ‘YMCA.’, it was a good day for the boys.

What had started as a routine trip to the deli for sandwiches and coffees on their lunch break from a nearby construction site had led to them walking past the Portal sculpture, a new art installation close to Manhattan’s iconic Flatiron building, which provides a real time livestream connection between Dublin and New York.

“Pretty cool, just don’t tell anyone you seen us dancing,” said Angelo, as he and Marty, their sandwiches nestled in their hard-hats under their arms, trekked back to work.

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Portal with Dublin from New York side. Photograph: Michael Fitzpatrick
The Portal with Dublin between Broadway and Fifth Avenue in New York. Photograph: Michael Fitzpatrick

Designed by Lithuanian artist Benediktas Gyly, the New York structure is located at the Flatiron South Public Plaza on 23rd Street, between Broadway and Fifth Avenue. Its Dublin sister piece is situated on North Earl Street close to the Spire.

New York City’s chief public realm officer Ya-Ting Liu said of the project: “Two amazing global cities connected in real time and space. We are so excited to have the portal as a public interactive art installation, providing a new point for human connection between New Yorkers and Dubliners.”

The Dublin Portal: When a New Yorker gave them the finger, Dubliners returned the gesturOpens in new window ]

There was much excitement at the New York site, with locals and tourists alike stopping to wave, pose and blow kisses at their transatlantic counterparts.

Dublin-based Aer Lingus flight attendants James and Kelly were glad they had ventured out for a walk, where they came upon the Portal by accident. “It’s amazing,” said Kelly, with James adding how it seemed especially good for linking those who might have issues travelling.

There were messers too. Of course there were. You don’t add New Yorkers and Dubs to a cocktail if you’re expecting a bland and uninspiring flavour, after all.

Several teenage lads near the front made questionable hand gestures. The type of signals you might see at a football match when an opposing player you weren’t particularly fond of had walked past, but it was taken in jest.

Aer Lingus flight attendants James and Kelly in Manhattan beside the Portal with Dublin. Photograph: Michael Fitzpatrick

Others, successfully it should be added, attempted to play “rock, paper, scissors” with their Irish counterparts on the large round screen, with laughs and applause when their games were successfully contested.

Friends Josh, Jessica and Katie, all from New York, loved the idea, with Jessica in particular feeling a lot of nostalgia. “This is the coolest thing. I got engaged last year to my boyfriend Zach at the Dingle Peninsula, so this means a lot to me.”

Crowds around the Portal at North Earl Street, Dublin

Earlier in the morning about 30 people on North Earl Street vigorously waved at a man on an escooter in New York, who stared back at them with a look on his face that suggests he was not entirely sure what was going on.

The Irish Times watched for about an hour on Thursday on this side and in that time Dubliners waved at the New Yorkers, blew them kisses and tried to entice them into dance-offs. The New Yorkers repeated the gestures back; one guy in a blue baseball cap also rolled up his sleeve and flexed his bicep for the camera, another man performed cartwheels.

It took at least half an hour before a guy in a flannel top on the New York side gave the middle finger to the Dubliners, who repeated the gesture back at him enthusiastically.

For now, just 24 hours into its existence, the Portals in New York and Dublin are a novelty idea, and will no doubt gain millions of waves, kisses and even one-fingered salutes from the citizens and tourists of two famous cities, already linked in so many ways before this latest technological achievement.

Just don’t tell anyone about Marty and Angelo dancing.

Dan Griffin

Dan Griffin

Dan Griffin is an Irish Times journalist