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‘Pope of Turtle Bay’ blesses NYC neighborhood — but some say his bell’s too loud

A bearded disciple with a bell and a cross marches around Manhattan’s East Side every Sunday morning, ringing his toll and blessing the neighborhood.

While locals have no issue with the man spreading the good word, some say he does it so loudly it could wake the dead.

“For most people, you’re out on the weekend, you’re working the whole week, you want to rest on Sunday,” said Silvia Gerber, a Turtle Bay resident of two decades. “You don’t want to be awakened by this bell.”

She said she first started hearing the bell ringer two years ago.

“I can hear it from blocks away,” Irene O’Halloran told The Post. 

She said the bell is obnoxious and stands out from the rest of the city’s noise — constant emergency sirens, car horns and roaring bus engines. 

The man who goes around Manhattan’s East Side identified himself only as Nickolai.
J.C. Rice for NY Post

“It’s not a pretty church bell. It’s a nuisance noise, and he just keeps going,” she said. “There doesn’t seem to be any rhyme or reason to it. People who say, ‘You live in a city, it’s always loud,’ don’t realize how annoying this bell is.”

The Pope of Turtle Bay, who only identified himself only as Nickolai, parked his blue Honda Civic on East 47th Street at 8 a.m. one Sunday this month before donning his signature chime and crucifix. 

For the next 20 minutes, he paraded around the neighborhood, stopping to bless Holy Family Catholic Church on East 47th Street, the Church of the Covenant on East 42nd Street, the United Nations building, and to give money to a homeless man who goes by the name of “Knife.”

Nikolai the pope of turtle bay
While some residents are annoyed with Nickolai, others insist he is harmless.
J.C. Rice for NY Post

“For me, the bell is whatever. It’s not something to get worked up over,” Knife said.

“Very much evil in this world,” Nickolai told The Post before driving off in his car, which was loaded with religious iconography, including crosses, bibles and pictures of saints.

Others insist Nickolai is harmless and only adds to the colorful tapestry of NYC characters.

One artist created an NFT of the Nickolai.
J.C. Rice for NY Post

“One way New York has changed for the worse in recent years has been in the decline, the dearth of quite harmless eccentricity,” Turtle Bay resident Alan Rau posted on Nextdoor in response to Gerber’s complaints. “This is what adds to the fabric of the city. Not everyone can be as ‘normal’ (i.e., non ‘creepy’) as you — something for which we should thank God.”

One artist captured Nickolai bearing his cross and made an NFT out of it, which runs for about $450 worth of cryptocurrency.

“This type of character intrigues me a lot,” Colombian photographer Julian López said in a text. “He made me wonder a lot of things about him: Who is this guy? What did he want to communicate by carrying that cross? How often does he do it? I was impressed by the decisive way in which he walked. I followed him for almost 15 blocks and nothing made him stop, not even a red light.”

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