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One of Midtown’s most famous pieces of public art is getting a radical new look — with a “magical” thread joining the Garment District Button and Needle. The new version of the artwork will begin to take shape next week on the corner of W39th Street and 7th Avenue.

The Button and Needle will take on a new look in the Garment District. Rendering: Garment District Alliance

The famous kiosk has been on the corner since the 1970s, when the schmatta trade was in full swing. In 1996 — after a decade as a flower stand — it was put back to work as an information kiosk and joined by the giant sewing equipment sculpture.

But by 2017 mobile phones had made the information kiosk obsolete, and the Garment District Alliance commissioned a plan to freshen up the space — and the sculpture. The result, as seen in the artist’s renderings, adds thread to the needle and creates more space for pedestrians to rush past — or to stop and stare.

Barbara Blair, president of the Garment District Alliance, described the design as “outstanding public art.”

The Button and Needle supported by the information kiosk — which used to be a flower stand. Photo: Phil O’Brien

As well as thread, the sculpture is gaining height, clocking in at 28 feet tall, with the aluminum button 15 feet in diameter and the stainless steel needle 32 feet long.  A shirt with a button that size would fit a 2,800-foot person, who would tower over One World Trade by 1,014 feet.

The Button and Needle will take on a new look in the Garment District. Rendering: Garment District Alliance

Nathan Adkisson, creative director of Local Projects, the company behind the new design, said: “The new magical thread element draws its strength from the passion and ingenuity that form the fabric of our great city.”

James Biber, now the principal architect of Biber Architects, came up with the original design when he worked for Pentagram Architects. “We never imagined in 1996 that the button and needle, first conceived as a way to draw attention to the information kiosk, would become the icon it is today,” he said.

The good old days! Men pulling racks of clothing on a busy sidewalk in Garment District, New York City. Photo: Al Ravenna/World Telegram & Sun/Library of Congress

 “We are gratified to have designed something that has become so much a part of NYC that the next version will build on the original vision.”

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