Until now, over 35 years into the fight against AIDS, there was no highly visible public memorial recognizing those we lost and the extraordinarily heroic effort of caregivers and activists who helped change the trajectory of the epidemic. Even though New York City alone lost more than 100,000 men, women and children to AIDS and the global activist response to the epidemic started here, the history of the disease in New York City is all but invisible: the loss and devastation, the government indifference, the community’s unprecedented response. This memorial is intended both to honor and acknowledge the past and – as the AIDS crisis is far from over – energize and inspire current and future generations of activists, caregivers and people living with HIV.
Founded as a grass-roots advocacy effort in early 2011 by Christopher Tepper and Paul Kelterborn, the NYC AIDS Memorial organization is now a 501(c)3 corporation, with an 18 person Board of Directors, chaired by Keith Fox.
The memorial sits at the gateway to a new public park adjacent to the former St. Vincent’s Hospital, which housed the City’s first and largest AIDS ward, is often considered the symbolic epicenter of the disease, and which figures prominently in The Normal Heart, and Angels in America, and other important pieces of literature and art that tell the story of the plague years in New York. The park site is also less than a block from the LGBT Community Center on 13th Street, where ACT-UP and other AIDS advocacy/support groups first organized, and it sits within blocks of the first headquarters of GMHC and the office of a doctor on W. 12th Street that Lambda Legal successfully prevented from being evicted for treating early AIDS patients. Furthermore, the site is highly visible, accessible and surrounded by amenities for visitors. For all these reasons, New York City officially named the new park that houses the memorial the “New York City AIDS Memorial Park at St. Vincent’s Triangle” which becomes the first significant public space in the City dedicated to the AIDS plague.