NEW YORK (CBSNewYork)– Is there an art thief on the loose in East Harlem? Some residents believe there is after a large banner designed to hang along the waterfront disappeared just days after it was installed.

The East River Esplanade is a diamond in the rough. People who visit said it can be just as beautiful and inviting as the city’s other waterfront parks– it just needs more attention.

That’s why a group called Friends of the East River Esplanade commissioned an internationally respected artist to transform a black pillar into a colorful totem pole and create a custom banner to hang on a fence, CBS2’s Elise Finch reported.

“We want to make this even better than the other waterfronts in the city so as part of that we feel that public art is a way to bring the conversation and bring momentum to improving a spot,” group member Jennifer Ratner said.

The artist donated his time and talent, but the conservancy paid nearly $4,000 to print the banner and have it installed. The abstract art piece was placed last week Wednesday. By Sunday morning, it was gone.

“It’s disrespectful to steal anything especially something that’s meant for public enjoyment,” one resident said.

People who frequent the area can’t imagine why or how someone could steal the banner. It isn’t heavy, but it is 60 feet long and 7 feet high and it was fastened with steel wire.

“It took two installers about an hour to install it. They needed a ladder and they had to use twist ties made of steel,” Ratner said.

The now-empty fence is directly across from the East River Plaza, separated the FDR Drive. Access to the area is limited so whoever took the banner was clearly determined. Anyone with information about the missing artwork is asked to call the police.


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