FishBridge Park is located on the south side of Dover Street, from Pearl to Water Streets. It is between the Fulton Fish Market, to the south, and the Brooklyn Bridge, to the north. Of the two distinguished New York institutions, Fulton Fish Market is the older. In the 1820s several fish dealers set up shop in a few stalls in a corner of Fulton Market. In 1831 they moved across South Street to a shed along the river. Thirty-eight years later a building was erected as a permanent facility for the fish business.
In the early days most fish was delivered by fishing schooners and sloops. By the late 19th century new technologies such as refrigeration and express railroads made it possible to deliver fish from all over the United States, Canada, and even abroad. Fulton Fish Market became the largest in the country and one of the largest in the world. It is one of the last working areas of the Manhattan waterfront and one of the last examples of the city’s outdoor wholesale markets. Six days a week, from midnight until about 9 a.m., the Fulton Fish Market is a dynamic bedlam of rubber-booted workers cleaning, boning, icing, unpacking, and repacking fish from throughout the world.
The Brooklyn Bridge is an aesthetic masterpiece and one of the world’s most iconic structures. With its intricate web of cables and its massive arched piers, the bridge was one of the great engineering feats of the 19th century: the world’s longest suspension bridge. Engineer John Augustus Roebling proposed this great link between Manhattan and Brooklyn in 1867. After his father’s death in 1869, Washington Roebling took his place as chief engineer. Paralyzed by caisson disease in 1872, the younger Roebling supervised operations from his apartment window and relayed instructions via his wife Emily Warren Roebling. The Brooklyn Bridge opened with great fanfare on May 24, 1883.
Reveling in the glory of its two namesakes, FishBridge Park is a community oasis of blooming roses, golden cosmos, and soaring morning glories on the site of a former parking lot and rat-infested garbage dump. Between 1990 and 1992, local volunteers cleaned up the site and built a garden children’s play area, barbecue, and dog run. In 1991 the City of New York leased the lot to the Seaport Community Coalition under Operation Green Thumb. The South-Water-Front Neighborhood Association became the overseer and then lease-holder of the garden in 1995. With the financial support of neighborhood residents and local businesses, an annual flea market, and grants from the City Parks Foundation and the MacDonald’s/Mollie Parnis Dress Up Your Neighborhood Award Program, volunteers transformed the ugly dump into a thriving park.
FishBridge Park celebrated two milestones in 1997. The first was the completion of the renovation of the upper park. The neighboring Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York funded the reconstruction project, which provided raised planters, a wrought-iron perimeter fence, and a pavement. The second achievement was the official designation of FishBridge Park as New York City parkland. The park is a hub for neighborhood activity, from gardening to dog-exercising, from reading to film-watching, from barbecuing to daydreaming, and especially for enjoying the park’s spectacular view of the Brooklyn Bridge. FishBridge Park is an example of how perseverance and goodwill can create a fine public space out of leftover vacant land.