Since 2011, we have advocated that the new park New York City is building in Lower Manhattan -- Elizabeth Berger Plaza -- include a memorial for Ameen Rihani and the other Arab-American writers of the immediate area. We argued that the “al-Mahjar” literary movement of New York City was the most influential foreign language movement that the United States ever produced and is worthy of public memory. This effort included officially “adopting” an earlier form of the park after Superstorm Sandy in 2013 and raising funding for repairs.
Starting in 2014, working with the Mayor’s Community Affairs Unit, the Department of Parks and Recreation, and the Percent for Art program of the Department of Cultural Affairs, we have collaborated to ensure the park contains a concrete, physical memorial. George Vellonakis, the architect for the park, initially agreed to include plants from the Mediterranean region in the design. In 2016, we worked with the City to coordinate an international competition of artists to propose potential designs for a public art memorial. On January 25, 2017, we held the final public meeting at the Metropolitan College of New York where French-Moroccan artist Sara Ouhaddou was selected from five finalists.
Since then, advocates have worked with the City to ensure that Sara Ouhaddou’s design can be implemented in a worthy manner. Mayor Bill de Blasio affirmed that he is a “big fan of Kahlil Gibran.” We will need to be assertive to make sure that an appropriate outcome occurs, likely under the next mayoral administration.
“An Arab for Ground Zero,” Wall Street Journal, May 24, 2011: https://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424052702304066504576341401418827660
Al-Jazeera, October 27, 2015: http://america.aljazeera.com/articles/2013/10/27/rediscovering-littlesyriaafterthestormpassed.html
Arab News, April 10, 2020: https://www.arabnews.com/node/1656566/lifestyle
The Tribeca Trib, February 6, 2017: http://tribecatrib.com/content/time-immigration-turmoil-artist-chosen-honor-arab-americans
The Gothamist, August 5, 2016: https://gothamist.com/arts-entertainment/local-historians-fight-to-commemorate-little-syria
Chelsea News, January 31, 2017: http://www.chelseanewsny.com/news/local-news/honoring-a-forgotten-neighborhood-KYNP1420170131170139978