Panel Selects Flight 587 Memorial Design
A Dominican-born artist who wants to create “a happy gathering place for family and friends” that will evoke the “universal longing to return home” was picked this week to construct a memorial to Flight 587 in Rockaway.
Artist Freddy Rodriguez’ design features a concave granite wall that slopes from 6 to 11 feet in height and is 72 feet long with openings that face the direction of the Dominican Republic. The names of each of the 265 people who died will be etched within reach “and can be touched and kissed,” according to his proposal. It also provides an unobstructed view of the beach and ocean, according to its description.
Rodriguez’ design was selected from 68 submissions, which were reduced in July to six finalists. A panel comprised of representatives of the victims’ families, the Rockaway community, several city agencies and a public art consultant chose the design early this week. A source who attended the meeting said Rodriguez received enthusiastic support from the panelists, who had to sign confidentiality agreements.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg made the announcement less than a week after the crash site memorial service marking the fourth anniversary of the crash. The service, which in past years has fallen on cold and rainy days, went off in the crisp November air, under sunny skies.
There were fewer mourners in attendance this year, which drew comments from many people who have attended each year and from at least one mayoral representative. The mayor was heckled by one woman who made headlines when she said the plaque at the crash site is inadequate.
“This memorial selection process is an effort that has taken time, patience and care,” Bloomberg said Wednesday in a statement. “We look forward to working with the artist, city agencies, community and families to realize this important tribute.”
The memorial, which will be built at the south end of Beach 116 Street in an area that has been reconfigured to accommodate it, is on the fast track (the community board will soon vote on work that is already underway or has been completed) and is slated for completion in the fall of 2006. The price tag will be about $2 million which, according to the city, will be paid for with public and private funding.
City Councilman Joseph Addabbo Jr., who represents the area where the plane crashed and the spot where the memorial will go, reiterated this week that American Airlines – not taxpayers – should pay at least part of the cost. Addabbo, who often voiced concern that the memorial could become an “attractive nuisance” said Rodriguez’ design was appropriate and added that it fits the “changing face” of Beach 116 Street.
Rodriguez’ design won 11 percent of the vote in The Wave’s online poll.
“My design grew out of the ‘here and there,’ and the ‘back and forth,’ and the universal longing to return home,” Rodriguez said in his proposal. “The travelers on the plane, the neighbors on the ground and the crewmembers working on the flight were all on life’s journey.”
Rodriguez was born in the Dominican Republic and moved to New York City in 1963. He studied painting at the Art Students League and the New School for Social Research, and textile design at the Fashion Institute of Technology. His work will be featured in a exhibition at the Newark Museum and at the Alexey von Schlippe Gallery of Art at the University of Connecticut.