Why does New York City need an AIDS Memorial?
When was the park and memorial completed and how was it built?
Who designed the memorial?
How much of the new park will be dedicated to the AIDS Memorial?
How much did the memorial cost and how was it funded?
Who maintains the park?
How is the memorial used?
Who is the NYC AIDS Memorial organization?
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.
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.
The NYC AIDS Memorial Park at St. Vincent’s Triangle was built by the Rudin family as part of their redevelopment of the former St. Vincent’s Hospital. The park opened in August 2015. The Rudin family has been generously managing the construction of the memorial elements within the park. We celebrated the substantial completion of the memorial with a public dedication on World AIDS Day 2016 (Dec 1) hosted by a coalition of over 70 AIDS advocacy organizations (the End AIDS NY 2020 Coalition), the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene and the New York State Department of Health. The NYC AIDS Memorial and the NYC AIDS Memorial Park at St. Vincent’s Triangle was transferred to the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation in 2017.
In conjunction with Architectural Record and Architizer, The NYC AIDS Memorial launched an international design competition in November 2011, chaired by Michael Arad, the designer of the National September 11 Memorial, to generate ideas for the memorial park design. Nearly 500 architects from around the world submitted designs. Studio ai, based in Brooklyn, won the competition to become the memorial’s architect and designed the space as built today. The architects created an opportunity for engraving in the paver stones of the memorial, the text for which was selected and designed by world-renowned visual artist Jenny Holzer, and features selections from Walt Whitman’s Song of Myself.
After successful community advocacy by the AIDS Memorial organization and a grassroots coalition of supporting organizations and neighbors, in March 2012, the NYC Council designated the entrance of the new park on a 1,600 sq. ft. parcel at the park’s most intimate corner, the intersection of West 12th Street and Greenwich Avenue. The memorial architects subsequently created a design to serve as the gateway and primary feature of the new park that would serve not only as a visible landmark, but as a place for people to come to reflect and gather. The memorial steel canopy sculpture, at approximately 18 feet high, can be easily seen from the surrounding neighborhood and will be lit at night. Unlike the rest of the memorial park, the AIDS Memorial area is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The entire surrounding park was officially named the “New York City AIDS Memorial Park at St. Vincent’s Triangle” by NYC Parks Commissioner Mitchell Silver.
The total cost for the memorial, including an endowment for maintenance and programming, is over $6 million. Approximately $4 million came from City and State public sources, with the remaining funds contributed by generous private donors. The maintenance reserve will ensure the memorial stays beautiful forever. The Board of Directors of the NYC AIDS Memorial organization will continue to fundraise to support maintenance and to fund public programming associated with the memorial in furtherance of our mission to connect current and future generations with the ongoing history of the AIDS epidemic.
Information on how to donate can be found here.
The condo association for the new residential development has an agreement with the Parks Department and is responsible for funding the maintenance of the park in perpetuity. New York City AIDS Memorial has a separate agreement with the condo association to fund the additional maintenance required for the memorial.
When designing the new memorial, the architects created a destination for people to gather to reflect and learn. The memorial design, combined with the adjacent park’s open plaza, creates a destination and venue for events, like a World AIDS Day vigil or a smaller gathering to remember a lost loved one. Public programming, such as traditional tours, virtual interaction on the memorial’s website, and classes and partnerships with other organizations, will make the memorial a gateway for education about the AIDS epidemic in New York City and beyond.
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 Dave Harper serving as Executive Director and with a 16 person Board of Directors, chaired by Keith Fox.