You Might Spend 30 Days in Jail If Your Plastic Bag Art Installation Turns Into a Bomb Scare That Shuts Down Bedford Avenue

Red alert. (Courtesy Louis Lim)

Mr. Miyakawa planting one of his “bombs.”

Plastic shopping bags, the city’s dandruff, get stuck in trees and wrapped around light poles all the time.

Rarely do they cause a bomb scare.

But that is what happened on Friday morning, shortly after 10:30 a.m. According to Gothamist, someone had simply called 311 to complain about a bag a gentleman had recently deposited into a tree on Beford Avenue and inquire about its removal.The 311 dispatcher, apparently spooked by the description of an installation by Brooklyn designer Takeshi Miyakawa—an I [heart] NY plastic shopping bag with a wire hanging out—directed the annoyed neighbor to call 911.

The cops showed up, then the fire department, the the bomb squad, which shut down Bedford from North Fourth Street to North Seventh Street for two hours.

Each May for New York Design Week, Mr. Miyakawa has made various installations throughout  Manhattan and Brooklyn to coincide with the annual festivities, including a floating chair that, like the bags, glowed. It was a spirited—if unsanctioned, but also generally harmless—effort. The installations had gained a modicum of notoriety within the art and design communities, but little notice elsewhere. This year, the work got him thrown in jail, for up to a month, if not longer.

“It’s his way of raising awareness for design week,” Louis Lim said yesterday of Mr. Miyakawa, his friend and mentor. “He felt there was no real public spirit for design week, like there is in Milan, or Paris for fashion week, where it’s an event and everyone is excited.”

People certainly got excited over the weekend, but certainly not in the way Mr. Miyakawa intended.

Twelve hours after the incident on Bedford Ave, around 2 a.m., Mr. Miyakawa, apparently ignorant of the scene he had caused earlier in the day, was hanging another of his installations from a light post in Greenpoint, at the corner of Bedford and Lorimer, across from McCarren Park. Those ominous wires connected to a small LED packet that would illuminate the bag. “It was his way of expressing love for the city and for design,” Mr. Lim said.

The cops, however, did not love it, and arrested Mr. Miyakawa. He was charged with two counts each—one for the morning incident, one for the night time—of reckless endangerment in the first degree, placing a false bomb or hazardous material in the first degree, placing a false bomb or hazardous material in the second degree, reckless endangerment in the second degree and criminal nuisance in the second degree.

Mr. Miyakawa was arraigned on Sunday morning, when Brooklyn Judge Martin Murphy rejected a $250,000 bond offer from the district attorney’s office and remanded him to custody for a psychiatric evaluation of up to 30 days. Police report that Mr. Miyakawa was cooperative and there was no imminent danger presented by his installation. The judge made no comment as to his orders, according to those present for the arraignment.

It is probably the most notable artistic use of a an I [heart] NY shopping bag since Julian Schnabel’s Before Night Falls, wherein one of the characters suffocates himself with one.

“This was not a guy who wanted to blow anyone up,” Mr. Miyakawa’s attorney, Deborah Blum, said of her client. She filed a writ of habeus corpus today, hoping for her clients hasty release, but does not expect any action at least until tomorrow. Until that time, Mr. Miyakawa, who is well known for the furniture he makes out of a Greenpoint studio, as well as for making models for noted architect Rafael Viñoly, will be locked away in Rikers.

“He did this even with all the negative energy in the city,” Mr. Lim said. “It was his way of trying to keep us from being beaten down.”

You Might Spend 30 Days in Jail If Your Plastic Bag Art Installation Turns Into a Bomb Scare That Shuts Down Bedford Avenue