Volume 76, Number 10 | July 26 - August 1, 2006

This design for the AIDS memorial planned for the Hudson River Park in Greenwich Village has fallen out of favor with Community Board 2’s L.G.B.T. Committee.

AIDS memorial gets funds, but design gets criticized

By Janet Kwon

Long-running efforts for an AIDS monument in the Village portion of the Hudson River Park are building momentum but still not enough to set a start date for the project. At the same time, there is also some new opposition.

Current plans for the AIDS memorial include installing a curved stone bench upon an already existing semicircular granite path near the site of the former Pier 49 at Bank St. The side of the bench will have an inscription from a Swedish folksong: “I can sail without wind; I can row without oars. But I cannot part from my friend without tears.”

The inscribed bench is a simple design in theory, but it will cost a hefty sum to complete. According to Lawrence Swehla, who is spearheading the AIDS monument efforts, the memorial will cost approximately $175,000.

By June of this year, Swehla’s organization, the AIDS Monument Committee, had raised approximately $26,250 after getting donations from both private and public organizations, including Altria Group. They were waiting on a sizable donation of $20,000 expected from The Hudson River Park Trust — proceeds from renting Pier 54 to Heritage of Pride’s Gay Pride dance at the end of June. However, this contribution did not come through, leaving the A.M.C. to look for funding elsewhere.

Yet, since June, the A.M.C. has garnered $40,000 from Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer’s Office, and they have requested contributions from the City Council, as well as The Stonewall Community Foundation, a public charity supporting the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community in New York.

“With these pieces in hand, we’re devising future letters to approach other foundations and corporations letting them know what we do have and what we still need to complete the project,” Swehla said.

One such foundation Swehla is planning to contact is The Friends of Hudson River Park.

Although the $40,000 donation from Stringer’s office is a considerable contribution to A.M.C.’s fundraising efforts, the project may face another hurdle, aside from the remaining money that still must be raised. Namely, the Community Board 2 Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Committee has become disenchanted with the project.

“There’s a lot of dissatisfaction from our committee — the design is very insignificant — it doesn’t really tell the story that is meaningful for those people who want it to be a real memorial,” said Steve Ashkinazy, the committee’s chairperson.

“I think I share the feelings of a lot of people in the community, that it doesn’t really reflect the kind of memorial that people were hoping for,” he added.

According to Ashkinazy, the L.G.B.T. Committee will discuss the possibility of re-opening the design selection process during its next meeting to get more community input “for a more meaningful memorial.”

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