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AIDS Memorial Park Endorsed for St. Vincent's Site

By Andrea Swalec | November 18, 2011 1:42pm
About 30 supporters of an AIDS memorial spoke on Thursday, many giving emotional accounts of losing friends to the disease.
About 30 supporters of an AIDS memorial spoke on Thursday, many giving emotional accounts of losing friends to the disease.
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DNAinfo/Andrea Swalec

WEST VILLAGE — A proposal to create the city's first major memorial to the AIDS epidemic gained support Thursday night, when Community Board 2 passed a near-unanimous resolution on adding one to the St. Vincent's Triangle Park.

But a representative of Rudin Management, which purchased the property after the hospital went bankrupt, told DNAinfo Friday that there was no chance the company would consider suggestions to include the 10,000-square-foot basement below the park as part of the memorial.

"The design as it stands will stay," Rudin chief operating officer John Gilbert said. "Our plan does not contemplate any use for the basement space."

CB2 voted Thursday that Rudin should incorporate an AIDS memorial component into designs for the planned 15,000-square-foot park at Seventh Avenue between Greenwich Avenue and West 12th Street, which once served St. Vincent's Hospital.

Christopher Tepper and Paul Kelterborn, photographed on Nov. 17, 2011, lead the Queer History Alliance, which has called for the creation of an AIDS memorial park on St. Vincent's Triangle.
Christopher Tepper and Paul Kelterborn, photographed on Nov. 17, 2011, lead the Queer History Alliance, which has called for the creation of an AIDS memorial park on St. Vincent's Triangle.
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DNAinfo/Andrea Swalec

"CB2 favors commemorations of the history of St. Vincent's Hospital and the AIDS crisis at this site," part of the resolution reads.

The group the Queer History Alliance has asked Rudin to consider creating the New York City AIDS Memorial Park at street level and in 10,000 square feet of basement space at the site.

Christopher Tepper, one of the group's co-founders, said they still want to try to use the basement space.

"We're intent on continuing to explore the feasibility of utilizing this unique space to remember the 100,000 New Yorkers who perished from AIDS, many from the Village and its immediate vicinity, and to honor the heroism and sacrifices of the Village community in its extraordinary response to the pandemic," he said Friday.

Housing Works president and CEO Charles King also spoke in favor of a basement educational component of the memorial.

"Without a learning center, the memorial would be meaningless in telling the story of AIDS … from when the whole world had turned it back on us," King said at the CB2 meeting Thursday, tears gathering in his eyes.

About 30 people spoke Thursday in support of an AIDS memorial, many giving emotional accounts of losing friends to the disease.

But Gilbert told DNAinfo Friday that use of the basement would reduce the size of the park to allow room for elevators and ventilation systems, and would force them to undergo a new seven-month-long Uniform Land Use Review Procedure with the Department of City Planning. The organization has no such plans to apply, he said.

CB2's resolution Thursday said the group would continue to discuss the basement space.

Rudin plans for the park unveiled Sept. 8 show a space with more than 600 seats, 31 trees and 4,861 square feet of plantings. The park would satisfy land use requirements in the developer's pending application to rezone the site of the former St. Vincent's hospital to create luxury homes and retail space.

Some community members criticized the design by M. Paul Friedberg and Partners as generic and said it did not reflect the character of the neighborhood.

CB2's resolution also asked Rudin to remove gas tanks from the site and "make available for public open space improvement" any  funds that are unspent from Rudin's $10 million estimate for the cost of the park.

CB2 voted down Rudin's rezoning proposal in an advisory vote on Oct. 20. It will next be subject to an advisory vote by Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer.

The City Planning Commission and City Council will then vote on the plans, following additional public hearings.