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AIDS Memorial Park Design Closer to Reality

A little over two months ago, Off the Grid covered a meeting regarding the proposed AIDS Memorial in the triangle park next to the former St. Vincent’s Hospital. The proposal, spearheaded by AIDS Memorial Park, was presented to Community Board 2’s Parks Committee and the public, at which time public feedback was taken into consideration as design plans moved forward. At the end of May, an early design was revealed at a Parks Committee meeting, which allowed the committee and the public to weigh in on the proposal again.

Last Wednesday, June 27th, the design team presented a slightly revised version of the memorial based on comments from the May meeting.

Source: AIDS Memorial Park Website (click photo)

As a re-cap, here is a short background on AIDS Memorial Park from the organization’s website:

Founded in 2011 by urban planners Christopher Tepper and Paul Kelterborn, AIDS Memorial Park is a coalition of individuals and organizations dedicated to the recognition and preservation of the ongoing history of the AIDS crisis. The organization’s goal is to produce a design for a memorial park to honor New York City’s 100,000+ men, women and children who have died from AIDS, to commemorate and celebrate the efforts of the caregivers and activists who responded to fight the disease, and to recognize the ongoing crisis.

Changes to the proposal presented at the end of May were minimal. Following are a number of slides from the May presentation, so please note that these are not 100% reflective of the design that was presented last Wednesday.

The landscaping on the memorial itself will consist of evergreens (80%) and annuals (20%) so the steel structure will still have flora in winter. According to the designers, the canopy will provide a gateway to the park while preserving the sight lines and open feel that the community desires.  Each structural piece will have a planter trough and irrigation and drainage pipes below. The steel structure itself will be painted a dark color and the lighting of the memorial will be designed separately from the rest of the park.

The circular seating seen here has since been changed to linear benches that will be located along the inside perimeter of the memorial site. This change was made in respect to public comment at the May meeting.

The floor of the memorial will consist of concentric circles made of cut metal and engraved stone. Inside each circle will be narrative text and quotes related to the AIDS epidemic. AIDS Memorial Park is assembling a diverse curatorial panel of artists, historians and leaders from the AIDS advocacy community to oversee the creation of the memorial narrative.

The reflecting pool will be the center of the memorial and will be lit from an oculus above. As a focal point for reflection, the pool also connects the planted canopy to the surface narrative.

The design presented to the Parks Committee received overall approval from those in attendance.  Some expressed concern regarding who would be responsible for the ongoing maintenance of the memorial; representatives from AIDS Memorial Park noted that they are actively fundraising for money that will go towards the upkeep of the memorial. Also, as part of the agreement between Rudin Management (the group that is re-developing the former St. Vincent’s Hospital complex, read more) and the City, Rudin is legally obligated to fund the maintenance of the entire park, including the 1,600 square feet dedicated to the memorial. Though the Parks Department owns the park, it is not responsible for its maintenance.

Because the memorial and park (tentatively called “St. Vincent’s Hospital Park” by the City Council, though final approval must be made by the Parks Department) is located within the Greenwich Village Historic District, the design will be reviewed by the community board’s Landmarks Committee on Monday, July 16th at 6:30pm. The meeting will take place at the NYU Silver Building at 32 Waverly Place, Room 401. This meeting will be held jointly with the community board’s Parks Committee and will provide the public another opportunity to weigh in on the design. From there the plan will likely go in front of the Full Board on July 19th at 6:00pm at Grace Church School, 86 Fourth Avenue, Tuttle Hall.

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