Skip to Content
Fresh Hell

Stop Being Weird at the Portal

The Portal will close for a few days. After what I saw beaming in from Dublin on Monday, yeah, that makes sense.

(Hell Gate)

On Monday afternoon, beside the Flatiron building, a crowd of people stood gazing into a 12 foot tall metal circle. The "Portal," which was installed last week by the Flatiron-NoMad Business Improvement District and portals.org, is essentially a giant webcam with a screen that shows what's happening in front of a corresponding "portal" in Dublin, Ireland. Portals.org is the project of "artist and entrepreneur" Benediktas Gylys, who has established two simultaneous, 24-hour live streams, first in the cities of Lublin and Vilnius in his home country of Lithuania, and now in Dublin and the Flatiron district.

I arrived and was immediately underwhelmed. Looking into the Portal itself, I could make out green double-decker buses zooming across the screen, behind a small crowd of a handful of amused Dubliners, but was disappointed to see that the video quality was less photo-realistic than had been advertised. Looking at the crowd gathered in front of the pedestal the Portal stood on, my stomach dropped as I saw someone in a unicorn costume, and another holding up a sign with a TikTok username and dancing in place in a familiar, stiff style. My eyes narrowed: Content creators. 

"You say you're a journalist," asked Sergio, a security guard for the Flatiron Plaza, smiling skeptically. "Are you one of those YouTubers? I've been seeing them all the time, they get under peoples' skin." I assured him I wasn't, and we continued our conversation. What was he on the look out for?

"Just making sure nobody damages it, or goes up on the stage area," Sergio replied. "Make sure nobody pulls down their pants or lifts up their shirts. That's already happened on Ireland's side, the first day it went up. They took this lady down right in front of the camera, we were all just watching while she got arrested."

Sergio got up to shoo away a guy with a camera who had stepped up on the back of the platform. Apparently, the Portal had been briefly shut down on the Ireland side the day before, and there have been reports of grinding against the Portal, flashing the Portal, and other various sorts of down bad behavior. But just then, at around 3 p.m. it seemed pretty innocent: There were a few middle fingers and wanking motions from the Dublin side, but mostly people blew kisses, waved, and made a lot of hearts with their fingers and hands, the mayor-approved sign of Good Vibes. Interestingly, people intuitively treated the portal like a mirror, finding their Irish counterpart who seemed to be equidistant to the corresponding Portal, and communicating to them in particular.

The whole thing was a little too Bono for me, particularly the content creators hungrily trying to display their social media names on screen in an eerie silence (there were no microphones, just a camera), and portals.org's claim that, "Portals are an invitation to meet fellow humans above borders and differences and to experience our world as it really is – united and one." But I decided that I had no reason to Grinch on this pair of smiling, waving, crowds. I smiled and waved. 

On North Earl Street in Dublin's inner city, a group of particularly cantankerous lads (the ones flipping the bird and doing jerk-off motions) began thrusting their phone screens into the camera, with their Snapchat usernames displayed. That got thumbs downs from the New York side, which was comparatively quite well-behaved, at least while I was there. "We’re not gonna follow you bro," groaned one visitor. One group of high-school girls did take them upon the offer, closing ranks into giggling circles as they sent selfies over to the Irishmen, who seemed to be in their mid-20s. 

I tried to push down an ominous feeling, but just as I was thinking, why do I always have to assume the worst?, one of the Dublin lads put their phone screen up to the Portal and blasted a dimly lit picture of a torso and an erect cock into Midtown Manhattan. 

"OH!" went a wave of dull shock from the crowd.The smirks on the lads' faces erupted into full on laughter at their own jokes, putting up more pictures to get an upset reaction: porn at first, then 9/11, and then the killing of George Floyd. New York just rolled with it all, greeting these images with resigned sighs.

(Hell Gate)

"Four o'clock, let's go, hurry," another guard muttered to himself, over it. Eventually the lads got bored and moved on. Two minutes later, the most visibly loutish of the lot, a blonde in an Armani EA7 sweatshirt who had put the dick pic up, reappeared on screen. "Uh oh," snickered a New York visitor, "that’s THE one guy." But he seemed to have lost interest, and wandered off into the Irish evening.

The Dublin City Council put out a statement on Monday evening telling British news outlet Sky that "technical solutions" are being implemented to prevent such "inappropriate behavior." I emailed our counterpart to the Dublin City Council, the Flatiron BID, and a representative told me in an email that, "In order to implement these solutions, the Portal will be turned off for a few days, beginning today at 5:00 p.m. and will be back on by the end of this week."

Already a user?Log in

Thanks for reading!

Give us your email address to keep reading two more articles for free

See all subscription options

Stay in touch

Sign up for our free newsletter

More from Hell Gate

MAGA Loons, Drill Rappers, and Unlikely Voters: The Never-Ending Trump Rally Comes to the South Bronx

"If Trump is here, and he's asking for a second chance, I can't judge that."

May 24, 2024

Finally, NYC Gets the Bird We Deserve

All hail our new beady-eyed queen, Astoria the wild turkey! And more news to take you into the long weekend.

May 24, 2024

Is the NYPD Solving Crimes? Who Knows—Their Last Published Clearance Data Is From 2022

City law requires the NYPD to report its clearance rates quarterly. Under the Adams administration, it just…stopped.

See all posts