The “Joker Stairs”, the new and controversial New York attraction

Helen Cook; Translation by Arturo Hilario | EFE
Photo Credit: Unsplash

New York – Not even the irritating drizzle of a New York autumn has been able to detract from the new tourist attraction of the Big Apple: the narrow and steep stairs of the Bronx in which the popular Batman villain Joker, portrayed most recently by Joaquin Phoenix in “Joker”, dances down in the final act.

Hundreds of tourists travel every day to the newly popularized neighborhood of northern Manhattan to pose on the steps, to the stupefaction of the residents of the area, who describe the location as “dirty” and “ugly”.

“They are dirty stairs that I have seen throughout my life, I do not understand why they are so important now. I don’t care if tourists come, but there is nothing here,” New Yorker Giselle tells EFE in front of the steps.

But for two Swedish families, the Kolmodin and the Sellen, this description could not be more misguided: “We have stopped going to the Empire State to see this,” they say about their week-long trip to New York.

And it’s because of actor Joaquin Phoenix and his particular acting method in the now iconic scene which has been chiseled in the memory of these spectators that they are even visiting: a particular dance, not necessarily finely tuned choreography, while he descends the Bronx staircase dressed in a red jacket suit and clown makeup at the end of the 1970’s set film.

That is why, for days, the staircase, located between two residential buildings in the modest Highbridge neighborhood and very close to the legendary Yankee Stadium, has received countless visitors who unholster their mobile phones to show that they have been in this new place of entertainment worship.

Many of the neighbors are happy: “This is a positive thing. They only come to take pictures and record stairs,” says Manuel Diaz, owner of a small neighborhood supermarket that borders the 92 steps.

The owner says that the number of customers has increased: “The lottery has touched me a bit,” he smiles, but admits that there are residents of the area who have shown their discontent over the presence of tourists.

Some have received them with a shower of eggs, as shown by images that have circulated through social media in recent days, and others with a cascade of paint thrown from the tall residential buildings that flank the stairs.

“Several times they have thrown objects from above: empty bottles, paint. Last Friday a girl came to visit and record a scene and white paint was thrown from above,” says Díaz.

This is one of the reasons why some of the residents of the area begin to demand that security be increased with a police presence, “as is done in any other place where tourists are concentrated.”

“Now that the Bronx is safer than a few years ago, there are more people who want to come, so authorities should keep in mind that this area of ​​New York, and not just Manhattan, is also attractive to visitors,” reasons Julissa Polanco, a resident in the neighborhood for two decades.

And although Marina Juárez, who visited the stairs during a trip from Los Angeles, could also be the target of eggs or paint, she says she understands “perfectly” the neighbors’ woes.

“It must be complicated. They will be trying to make their lives and here are the tourists fooling around and posing in a thousand ways on the stairs,” she says.

“I understand that it is annoying, but this is part of what is New York, where there is little room and everyone is tighter,” adds Juárez.