The artist said the work was a testament to “our timeless drive to find icons in nature” as officials hoped it will “surprise and delight” New Yorkers and visitors. Legend suggests New Yorkers once abandoned baby alligators when they became too large to keep as pets – with the story evolving into “tales of subterranean monsters” living in the “underbelly” of the city, officials said.

The bronze sculpture, called NYC Legend, was unveiled in Union Square Park by Swedish artist Alexander Klingspor and pays tribute to “New York City’s enduring capacity to adapt and survive” – a quality “embodied by the alligator”.

Community organisation Union Square Partnership said the work was “inspired by the resilience of both alligators and New Yorkers” and the “magnificent” sculpture merges ancient mythological symbolism with modern urban folklore.

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