nyc tiny house manhole cover smoking

Mysterious Tiny House appearing over manholes in NYC streets – the backstory is awesome!

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Where in NYC is this Tiny House and HOW does it get there?!

New York City commuters have been shocked to find a tiny house in the middle of busy Manhattan streets. As an added surprise, it looked as if a hobbit was in there roasting marshmallows due to smoke billowing out of the tiny chimney.

While no small humans had actually taken up residence in these bustling intersections, the reason it’s been popping up is equally as neat. It’s part of an art project developed by Mark Reigelmän called, “Smokers.” His tiny house is periodically placed over steaming manhole covers throughout the city to provide onlookers a bit of enjoyment during their otherwise hectic NYC lifestyle.

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The artist told Slate:

“People were mostly confused as we rolled this cabin through NYC streets. Even as the cabin rolled atop a steaming manhole cover pedestrians weren’t quite sure what was happening. But once the steam started pouring out from the chimney, he said, people gathered around to gawk, cheer, and laugh.”

So how does the tiny house get there?

When not on display, the tiny house sits in a parking spot by Reigelmän’s apartment in Brooklyn. With the help of some artist-friends, Reigelmän keeps a list of “active” (manholes cooperating) sites to put on his show.

The 8 foot x 6 foot x 8 foot tiny house weighs 350 pounds and requires a trailer and a few buddies to transport. The display doesn’t last very long. As you can imagine, NYC residents could take issue with something this size blocking a portion of the street. According to Reigelmän, the house is usually in and out in a period of roughly 10 minutes.


Do NYC police officers care?

Reigelmän actually tried to go about this in a legitimate fashion. He reached out to Con Edison, which is responsible for NYC’s venting system and subsequent manholes. The original idea was to get the permits and licenses necessary to keep these on display for longer periods. When that fell through, he decided to just go rogue.

He has taken precautions, however, to limit any safety issues and nuisance to the public. According to Reigelmän, “my team and I spent a lot of time figuring out ways to ensure there were limited safety issues.” He always keeps four people on site to handle traffic and to guide the tiny house. He states, “there is always a chance of unforeseen problems.” Regarding potential issues, he “weighed these chances against the awesomeness of the installation and decided that it was worth the risk.”

NYC police have been very supportive of the project, so far. They’ve even stopped to ask about it and leave with a simple, “be careful.”

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Where’d he get this tiny house and the idea?

Mark built it!

He was originally inspired by German “Räuchermann,” which are small wooden incense-burning figures in the shapes of homes and other items. As a kid he obsessed over these. At 32 years old, he finished his 350 lb piece of art inspired by these figurines.

The “shaker-style” cabin is made of steel, birch plywood, maple and pine. The structure sits an inch above ground on 4-inch rubber casters, allowing it to be mobile. the original plan was to paint the tiny house brightly colored. He later decided to have the steam be the focal point of the piece and settled on a pigeon grey.

nyc tiny house manhole locations

Where can you find this NYC tiny, smoking house?

The illusive art project doesn’t have a permanent display, unfortunately. Since the project was launched in December, it’s been known to frequent these intersections.

  • Broadway & Grand St
  • 1st Ave & E 12th St
  • Park Ave S & E 27th St

Let us know what you think of this project in the comments section below! Would you like to see these replace the ugly orange, striped cones that line our busy streets?

Also, make sure to Share this with your NYC friends so they can keep an eye out!

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