overview

The New York City AIDS Memorial — dedicated on World AIDS Day, December 1, 2016 — honors the more than 100,000 New Yorkers who have died of AIDS since the early 1980s.

It also recognizes the contributions of caregivers and activists, many of whom were affiliated with the nearby, former St. Vincent’s Hospital complex.

Header Photo
Credit: Christopher D. Brazee/NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project, 2019.

History

The New York City AIDS Memorial Park at St. Vincent’s Triangle is located on a portion of the former St. Vincent’s Hospital’s Materials Handling Center (demolished) where medical supplies and corpses were transported to and from the hospital through tunnels that ran underneath Seventh Avenue. Beginning in the early 1980s, St. Vincent’s Hospital became “ground zero” of the AIDS epidemic in New York City and housed the first and largest AIDS ward on the East Coast.

The Memorial’s location, at the crossroads of AIDS history, was selected due to its associations with and proximity to the former St. Vincent’s Hospital; the LGBT Community Center, where ACT UP and other AIDS advocacy and support groups first organized; and the LGBT neighborhoods of Greenwich Village and Chelsea, which were two of the most impacted by the epidemic in the city. Dedicated on World AIDS Day (December 1, 2016), it honors the more than 100,000 New Yorkers who have died of AIDS since the early 1980s and also recognizes the contributions of caregivers and activists, many of whom were affiliated with St. Vincent’s.

Its design, by Studio a+i, was selected through an international competition held in 2011 that garnered nearly 500 submissions. Composed of various components, the most visible is an 18-foot steel canopy made from three interconnected triangles. Below is an installation designed by artist Jenny Holzer, who was living and working in the city in the early 1980s when the epidemic began. The design includes a low circular fountain surrounded by granite paving with engraved passages from “Song of Myself” (1855), poet Walt Whitman’s celebration of hope, unity, and human dignity.

‘Song’ has love, and lovely words overflowing, and represents ardent unashamed people abounding, people of all sorts, and that is how and what the memorial must be.

Jenny Holzer , on her selection of “Song of Myself,” 2017

The NYC AIDS Memorial is a not-for-profit organization that developed the memorial and supports ongoing maintenance and develops educational programs on site and in the neighborhood throughout the year.

Building Information

  • Architect or Builder: Studio a+i (structure) and Jenny Holzer (fountain and paving)
  • Year Built: 2016

Sources

  1. Alexandra Schwartz, “New York’s Necessary New AIDS Memorial,” The New Yorker, December 8, 2016 (accessed January 21, 2021), bit.ly/3sNvwUH.

  2. Andrew Boynton, “Remembering St. Vincent’s,” The New Yorker, May 16, 2013 (accessed January 21, 2021), bit.ly/36iWDNR.

  3. “Jenny Holzer talks about her NYC AIDS Memorial,” Phaidon, 2017 (accessed March 18, 2021), bit.ly/30Thm7s. [source of pull quote]

  4. New York City AIDS Memorial (accessed January 21, 2021), bit.ly/3iAvvP8.

Curated Themes

11 Sites

The AIDS Crisis

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