2005-09-02 / Community

Proposals For Rockaway AA 587 Memorial Revealed

By Howard Schwach


The six proposals for the memorial to those who died when American Airlines Flight 587 crashed into Belle Harbor nearly four years ago were unveiled at the Beach Club on Beach 116 Street, nearby where the memorial will stand sometime next year, on Wednesday night, August 31.

While the six finalists were present to discuss the memorials with family members and the public, The Wave was prevented from speaking with anybody by a representative of the Mayor's Office of Immigrant Affairs because a press showing was scheduled for Today (Friday) in Manhattan. The Wave editor did manage, however, after being asked to leave the building, to get the pictures that accompany this article.

The mayor's office did, however, provide the statements from each designer or design team.

The final decision on the memorial will probably be announced on November 12 of this year at the annual anniversary memorial service, which has always been held at Beach 131 Street and Newport Avenue, the site of the crash.

The decision will be made by a committee made up of artists, city officials, family members and some local residents.

While the mayor's office declined to give The Wave a list of those on the committee, we have learned that it includes Hector Algarobba, whose mother and father died in the crash, John Brady, Belkis Lora (another family member), Jonathon Gaska from Community Board 14, Steve Good, Monsignor Geraghty of St. Francis de Sales Church, Joanie Omeste of the Chamber of Commerce and Geoff Rawling of the RAA.

The memorial is expected to be ready for the fifth anniversary of the crash on November 12, 2006.

This week, The Wave hosts an online poll on its Website, which can be accessed at www.rockawave.com, for readers to choose their favorite memorial. While the poll is strictly advisory, the results will be forwarded to the Mayor's Office of Immigrant Affairs.

What follows are excerpts from the mission statements issued by each of the designers or design teams.

Number One

Barbara Grygutis and

Jose A. Santos

This design team says that the challenge of the site at Rockaway Beach front is to create a private space within the larger context of the very busy beach entrance. Creating a memorial with a sense of privacy and safety is an overriding goal for the design.

The memorial they propose is composed of two arching walls shaped as an embrace. The names of the deceased will be placed on the two interior walls of the memorial. Each victim's name will be incised into an individual black granite plaque that will be slightly curved to fit into the arc of the embracing wall. The names will commence at two feet from the bottom and will be no higher than four feet high. The exterior walls will be made of black slate stone.

Eight light towers, from 11 to 14-feet high, will arc alongside the entrance to the sidewalk.

Number Two

Freddy Rodriquez

Rodriquez says that the purpose of his memorial is to inspire reverence and respect for those lost by creating a place where families and friends can reminisce and where they can pay tribute to the victim's lives and their legacy.

The memorial is made up of a single, embracing concrete structure that ranges from 6 to 11-feet high. Rodriquez says that the one building signifies that we are all in this together. The structure is dotted with window that allow visual access to the ocean. In addition, family members will be able to leave mementos in the window spaces. The 264 names of the victims will be engraved in random order, possibly grouped by family unit. There will be seating blocks and plantings to give the feeling of peace and serenity.

Number Three

The Lipski Group

This design group proposes three towering white limestone walls, reaching up to embrace the sky. Each leans on the other two for support and together they form a triangle, chapel-like space, open to the sky above. As the space is entered, there are the names of those who died in the tragedy carved into the limestone. Additionally, there is a message in both English and Spanish at the entrance that notes that the memorial is designed "To Honor The Memory Of Those Lost In The Flight 587 Tragedy On November 12, 2001."

The upper portion of each inside wall is covered with mirrored stainless steel to produce infinite reflections. Affixed to those mirrors are 264 pieces of Larimar, a beautiful blue gemstone found only in the Dominican Republic.

Surrounding the heart of the memorial is a garden, bestowing upon the memorial a space with isolation, tranquility and dignity.

Number Four

Linda Covit

Two openwork arcs form the focal point of the memorial. Aligned along the length of the site, they curve out towards the opposite edges. The passage between them is centered with roadbed, leading the view towards the ocean and the sky.

The arcs consist of three layers. The 265 names of the victims of Flight 587 are cut out in the two exterior layers, creating a single line of names stretching across both sides of each wall. A stylized flower and leaf motif is cut out through all three layers above and below each name.

The height of the arcs is scaled to the human body. Their length and the immensely long line of names visually embody the enormity of the loss.

There is a tendency for memorials to be stark, sometimes bleak and oppressive. I chose to conceive the Flight 587 memorial in a very different spirit; one that commemorates those lost with dignity, celebrates their lives and hopefully offers a peaceful, contemplative and uplifting experience for the families and the neighborhood.

Number Five

Toshihiro Katayama

and Oslund Associates

Beach 116 Street draws residents and visitors alike towards the sea. Whether driving, walking or emerging from the subway station, the smell of the sea is strong. Eyes are immediately drawn to a beacon of white marble that roses above the rooflines and tree canopies - focusing the thoughts on an immutable place of remembrance - the Flight 587 Memorial.

The beacon, a bell tower, is the focal point of the memorial space. The form of the bell tower is an equilateral triangle rising 100 feet into the air. Clad in white marble, the bell tower stands as a visual marker of the tragedy. The bell, fabricated by Dominican craftsmen will ring once a day at 9:16 a.m. The bell will toll two times and pause, six times with another pause and a final five times as an audible reminder of the people who lost their lives.

The main memorial plaza is paved in white granite. Offset within the main memorial space is an ascending pyramid of "luminarias," each being a representation of an individual victim that will be continually lighted from within.

Creating a backdrop is a 30-foot high wall that stretches across the bredth of the site made of white granite. A window will be cut into the wall to see through the site to the ocean. Raised five feet above the beach, a stainless steel walkway will complete the beachfront faade.

Number Six

Krzysztof Wodocko and Julian Bonder

The form of this memorial symbolizes ascent. The central part of the memorial is a commemorative platform directed at the angle towards the south and the sky, which, as a path, weaves commemoration, contemplation, awareness and silence. The position and angle of the platform refers to the direction of the flight's interrupted journey.

The names of those who lost their lives are inscribed on a raised reflective surface placed centrally along the axis of the commemorative platform. As this surface will reflect the sky, its changing light, color and cloud configuration, the names of the victims will be seen as if they are permanently inscribed in the sky.

The orientation of the names will be positioned to be read while ascending. In this way, the upward direction of the commemorative platform will be visually confirmed and the spiritual focus of the memorial will be further enforced.

The most elevated section of the commemorative platform will be crossing over the boardwalk and will be well visible above the pedestrian traffic.

The sense of the memorial site - being lifted from the ground and interrupting a horizon - will be enhanced when seen from the boardwalk, from the city, and as experienced by the visitors.

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