New York, NY — The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire of 1911, was one of the deadliest blazes in the city’s history prior to 9/11. It’s tragic victims were mostly immigrant young women and girls working at the factory who died because they were unable to escape when the inferno broke out. The factory owners didn’t want their employees to take breaks and accused them of stealing, so they routinely locked the doors. Many of the workers leapt to their deaths to try and escape the flames. When the Fire Department trucks arrived, the ladders couldn’t reach all the way to the top floors of the building, dooming many. The final death count was 146.
LaborPress spoke with members of the Remember the Triangle Fire Coalition to learn about the new memorial that is being created on the site of the fire to honor those who died.
LP: When will the memorial be completed and when will construction begin?
RTFC: New York University is currently doing structural work on the building as part of Local Law 11. The Remember the Triangle Fire Coalition’s architects and program manager are coordinating with NYU to prepare the building for the memorial. Fabrication by KC Fabrications in Gardiner, NY, has begun but the memorial cannot be installed until NYU’s structural work is completed. The memorial is projected to be installed by March 2023.
LP: Please share details about the steel Names Panel, that will show the names of those who perished.
RTFC: The names will be cut into a steel panel that will project horizontally off the building about 12 feet above the sidewalk. The names will be reflected onto an angled band below which will be surfaced with a material called Stoneglass. This is a highly reflective but very durable material. Since the names are cut through the panel, the sky will be visible through the letters. Generally, names are in alphabetical order, but in some cases where the victims were related, those names have been grouped by family.
LP: Who is the architect for the memorial and how did that person or persons get involved?
RTFC: The Coalition launched an international competition in 2012 to select a design for the Triangle Memorial. A jury consisting of representatives from the fields of fashion, public art, design, architecture, and labor history pored over 170 entries from more than 30 countries and, via a process of anonymous review (where judges didn’t know anything about the applicants), selected a design. Reframing the Sky, submitted by the two-person team of Richard Joon Yoo and Uri Wegman, is a spare yet powerful tribute to the Triangle workers who lost their lives, their co-workers who survived, their families, friends, and the larger community that mourned and organized to honor their legacy by advancing the cause of workers’ rights and safety. Uri Wegman and Richard Joon Yoo are the Memorial designers and Charles Lauster is the Architect of Record, who is overseeing the project. He has worked with public art projects in the past and is providing his services pro bono. The memorial will be installed by members of the Ornamental Ironworkers Union Local 580.
LP: How were funds for the memorial raised?
RTFC: The memorial will cost $2.97 million. New York State is providing $1.5 million. The labor movement, foundations, and private donors have contributed $490,000. We are currently fundraising to raise an additional $980,000. Donors of $25,000 or more will be listed on a separate plaque on the side of the building.