A box that sparked a brief public alarm on Manhattan's Upper East Side Thursday is being considered a "hoax device" by investigators as they work to determine whether the incident was some kind of performance stunt or political display, law enforcement sources with direct knowledge of the investigation say.
The initial report of a "suspicious package" came in around 9 a.m. and shut down Fifth Avenue, East 84th Street and East 86th Street for about two hours before the NYPD gave the all-clear. Photos posted to the Citizen app showed a big response at the scene just steps away from the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
According to law enforcement sources, the inside of the box contained typical foam material and three hollowed-out areas that each had a hardened gel-like substance within them. The gel was deemed to be non-hazardous.
It's not clear why the box was left where it was left or its purpose. Authorities are looking into whether it was some kind of performance art stunt. Another theory is that the three gel-like substance carveouts could represent fetuses in a womb, the law enforcement sources said.
For now, the sources say investigators are treating it as a "hoax device" because of the public alarm that resulted from its discovery. Whoever dumped it could face arrest and potential criminal charges depending on why it was left at the location.
Authorities say their investigation is ongoing.