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Group Installs East River Esplanade's First Ever Public Art Display

 A conservancy group, Friends of the East River Esplanade, set up a public art installation on the crumbling waterfront park in order to bring attention to the esplanade.
East River Esplanade
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EAST HARLEM  — A conservancy group installed a public art piece in hopes of inspiring people to beautify the crumbling East River Esplanade.

The artwork, a 60-foot-long and 7-foot-tall banner depicting beams of light flowing through the esplanade, went up over a fence near 117th Street and the FDR Drive Friday. It is the first time there has been a public art installation on East Harlem's waterfront park, according to the Parks Department.

The banner is hanging on a chain linked fence that protects people from falling into the East River, and will be up until July.

“We are using public art to bring attention to the deteriorating waterfront that has not been cared for,” said Jennifer Ratner of the Friends of the East River Esplanade. “It’s been very hard to bring attention to the fact that the waterfront in East Harlem should really get the same attention that waterfronts not just in Manhattan but all over the city are getting.”

The group also plants flowers on 96th Street, and hosts free public events like live salsa music and Caribbean dancing along the waterfront, she added.

Last year, Friends of East Harlem Esplanade worked alongside Civitas and State Assemblyman Robert Rodriguez to come up with ways to develop the waterfront.

“We totally support the visioning for it because nothing is done without visioning but we are very much about implementation,” Ratner said.

One of the short term goals is to reopen the 107th Street Pier for public use. Currently the pier is fenced off from the public because the structure is unstable, she said.

The conservancy group celebrated the installation of the banner with a party at Appleebee's on East 117th Street near the East River Plaza on Friday.

Vicki DaSilva, the artist who created the banner, and First Deputy Commissioner Liam Kavanagh attended the party, Ratner added.

After the festivities, guests walked over to the East River Plaza to look at the banner from across the FDR Drive. Some walked down to 111th Street to look at it up close.

There is also a pedestrian bridge leading to the park on 120th Street but Ratner said people should avoid that route "because of a sinkhole that has not been repaired."

"Frankly to me that is kind of an emergency when you are looking down into the water,” she said.