EAST HARLEM, NY — The men and women who fish off of the East River Esplanade have a vital new resource in the form of an ADA-accessible bait station on a stretch of the East Harlem waterfront.
The station — where fishermen and fisherwomen can prepare bait, inspect catches to see if they require release and clean catches to take home — was funded by the group Friends of the East River Esplanade through a $15,000 grant from Sea Grant New York, according to the organization's board chair Jennifer Ratner. In addition to serving as a useful tool for East River anglers, the bait station is outfitted with public art depicting sketches of the types of fish that call the urban river home, Ratner said.
"We sort of combined our public art initiative and made it a functional piece of public art, made it into the bait station," Ratner said.
Before the station was installed, people who fished along the East River Esplanade were forced to clean their catches on the ground or on benches, Ratner said. With anglers being some of the steadiest users of the esplanade in East Harlem, the group saw the bait station as a great way to deliver on its mission to "surprise and delight people along the waterfront," Ratner said.
"If you go to other areas where there's a lot of fishing — you know, around the country — there's always bait stations," Ratner said.
Friends of the East River Esplanade is dedicated to advocating for users of the esplanade from 60th to 120th streets, and the group notices that an uneven amount of investment has gone to the southern section of the esplanade in recent years. That ultimately led to the decision to install the bait station in East Harlem. When it comes to the larger needs of the esplanade in El Barrio, small nonprofit groups such as Friends of East River Esplanade can only do so much.
It's up to the city to make due on its promises to invest in the East River Esplanade above 96th Street, Ratner said.
"It was the least we could do for the people whose waterfront has really been neglected, there are a lot more things that these fishermen need," Ratner said, citing needed repairs for the neglected and now closed pier at East 107th Street.
The bait station was designed by Jacobs Chang architecture and constructed pro bono by contractors such as SMI construction, Silman and Maspeth Welding, Ratner said. A ribbon cutting ceremony for the resource was held Tuesday.