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NYU Building to Be Wrapped in Art Memorializing Triangle Fire

By Andrea Swalec | March 18, 2013 8:20am

MANHATTAN — Today, only a small plaque indicates that a Greenwich Village building was the site of a horrific fire more than 100 years ago.

But plans are in the works to turn the entire 10-story structure into a memorial.

The NYU building at 23 Washington Place, just west of Greene Street, will be wrapped in a huge piece of art made in tribute to the 146 victims of the Triangle Shirtwaist Company fire in 1911, a spokeswoman for Remember the Triangle Fire Coalition said last week.

The Village-based group launched a design competition to select the art, which will be affixed to the landmarked building indefinitely.

Coalition chairwoman Mary Anne Trasciatti said the "second-skin" placed on the building will be something that "can't be ignored."

“This memorial will stand as a long-overdue tribute to the fire’s victims, and also as a symbol of workers’ ongoing struggles for dignity and safety in the workplace,” she said in a statement.

More than 500 employees — mostly young, female immigrants — were working inside the crowded garment factory on March 25, 1911, when a fire broke out on the eighth floor. The absence of adequate fire escapes left workers to perish inside or jump from the windows to their deaths. The fire galvanized the labor movement worldwide.

Submissions for the design contest, whose sponsors include NYU, the Fashion Institute of Technology and labor organizations, will be accepted through April 5.

Designs must include the names of all 146 fire victims, and can cover both the east and south sides of the building.

The panel of judges, which will choose the winner this summer, includes city Department of Transportation assistant urban design commissioner Wendy Feuer and Yale University architectural design professor Deborah Berke. 

An NYU spokesman said the university will work with the city's Landmarks Preservation Commission to ensure the memorial art will not damage the building.