In 2013 an international competition was held to find a design with which the tragic events of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire would be memorialized. Greenwich Village residents are now upset that the winning design was picked by “a renowned panel of jurists” but without any input from residents.
In 1911 146 employees, most of them young immigrant women, were killed in a ferocious fire at the factory of the Triangle Shirtwaist Company. The high death toll was caused, to a great extent, because the factory’s doors were locked from the outside, leaving no proper means of escape to those inside once the blaze began. Young women were forced to jump from high stories to their deaths, rather than burn in the fire itself.
The competition for the memorial received over 170 submissions from 30 countries. Joel Sosinsky, a member of the Remember the Triangle Fire Coalition, the organization that spearheaded the memorial idea beginning many years ago, said:
“Frances Perkins, the first female Cabinet member under FDR, who witnessed the fire, basically said that the New Deal started at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire,” Sosinsky said. “People walk past that building every day and have no idea.”
District Leader Terri Cude, of the 66th Assembly District Part B, agrees that a memorial at the site of the tragedy is appropriate. She is just frustrated that the selection of the final design was not made in consultation with the residents of the neighborhood who will have to live with the memorial.
The main worry seems to be that the 8-story-high mirrored piece could reflect light right into the windows of the homes of the residents.
“Basically we’re going to try to start a conversation in the ‘better late than never’ thought that perhaps some of the community’s concerns can be expressed to the coalition, who then maybe can modify the design,” Cude said at a recent meeting of Community Board 2’s executive leadership.
Sosinsky said that the designers will have to have the last word on the ultimate design of the memorial, who are planning on attending the meeting.