Open Call

Architects invited to submit designs for New York's Hurricane Maria Memorial

Damage after Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico (Airman 1st Class Nicholas Dutton/Courtesy U.S. Air Force)

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Hurricane Maria Memorial Commission have put out a call for architects and artists to submit memorial ideas that honor the victims and survivors of the deadly hurricane that devastated Puerto Rico in 2017. Upon selection, the winning design will be placed in Lower Manhattan’s Battery Park City neighborhood along the Hudson River waterfront. 

“Hurricane Maria claimed thousands of lives and destroyed countless homes in Puerto Rico, yet the resilience of the Puerto Rican community has shown the world anything can be overcome when we stand together in solidarity,” said Governor Cuomo in a statement. “We want this spirit of strength and community to be reflected in the Hurricane Maria Memorial, and we look forward to seeing how the experts capture it in their designs.” 

Interested architects and artists are invited to submit a response to the RFP online by Monday, September 9, 2019, before 11:59 p.m. EST. Designers can submit one design for either proposed sites (the Esplanade and Chamber’s Street Overlook in Battery Park), but only one will be chosen.

All submissions will be reviewed by the memorial commission, a 10-person group formed late last summer on the one-year anniversary of the hurricane’s landfall, and led by Congress members Nydia Velazquez (D-NY 7) and Jose E. Serrano (D-NY 15), Assemblymembers Marcos Crespo and Maritza Davila, and New York Secretary of State Rossana Rosado. Members include local leaders of Puerto Rican descent such as Edwin Meléndez, director of the Center for Puerto Rican Studies at Hunter College; Casimiro D. Rodriguez, Sr. president of the Hispanic Heritage Council of Western NY; Hilda Rosario Escher; Former president & CEO of Ibero American Action League; Brenda Torres, executive director of Corporation for the Conservation of the San Juan Bay Estuary; and Elizabeth Velez, president of The Velez Organization and resident of Battery Park City. 

View of Battery Park Esplanade with lamps, benches, and trees

The memorial will be located either on the Battery Park Esplanade or at the Chambers Street overlook. (Alistair McMillan/Flickr)

Per Governor Cuomo, the memorial will serve as a physical reminder of the love and respect Americans have for Puerto Rico and will be part of the state’s ongoing support efforts both locally and abroad. In the last two years, New York State has dedicated $13 million toward 11,000 displaced victims living in New York and service organizations that can help them regain their footing. 

According to the Pew Research Center, New York boasts the most amount of people of Puerto Rican origin of any state, with over 1.1 million residents—that’s 21 percent of the total 5.1 million living in the mainland U.S. It’s the second-largest Hispanic population in the U.S. with just over half of people concentrated in the northeast region, while 31 percent reside in the South and 19 percent are located in Florida. 

Due to the recent political and economic turmoil in the territory, the mainland U.S. now has more Puerto Ricans than the island does itself, at 3.2 million residents. Recent migration patterns reveal that people are moving away due to lack of basic resources and frustration with systemic government corruption. The memorial solicitation opens just after weeks of protests resulted in the resignation of Puerto Rico’s former governor Ricardo Rosselló. But the fight to overturn the powerful Puerto Rican government isn’t over: the territory’s Supreme Court just took up a lawsuit this week which aims to take down Pedro Pierluisi, who was sworn in as governor last Friday without proper consent from the Senate. 

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