Triangle Factory Fire Event – Plus Mainstream Media Omits Response to the Mayor from Reports

The Street After the Event

Signs were held with names of the 146 workers who died

Original Site Greene & Washington Place

Breaking Down Event (Washington Sq Park in background)

The Triangle Factory Fire occurred on March 25, 1911 and killed 146 workers, mostly young women. As I wrote last week, this past Friday marked the 100th Anniversary of the fire. I attended the annual commemoration at the site, one block from Washington Square Park. You wouldn’t know from any of the major NYC media reports that when Mayor Michael Bloomberg spoke, he was not welcomed, and was, in fact, steadily booed. (Despite really wanting to hear the Mayor’s speech to witness exactly this – what the crowd’s response to him would be – I dashed over to Think Coffee and missed him! Luckily, there is YouTube.)

It appears Agence France-Presse was the only major news agency to report it. Was the Triangle Fire 100th Anniversary event considered so prestigious that the media did not want to tarnish the Mayor’s tenuous image further? (Google “Bloomberg booed at St. Patrick’s Day Parade” and then “Bloomberg booed at Triangle Fire” to see how this works. One will reveal mainstream media reports; the other will not.) Of course, there is YouTube and many bloggers and other sites that are more than willing to write about this. Still, it’s a bit curious.

One downside to how the event was set up – NYPD set up barricades splitting the crowd between the event’s three block radius on Washington Place, leaving Mercer Street, for example, open (but not to access the event). It dissipated the synergy of the crowd and didn’t make the event safer (the “pens” make everything feel less safe).

* Previous WSP Blog post: Triangle Fire 100th Anniversary Commemoration March 25th

* Many photos of the event, including a procession from Union Square, at Staten Island Bob’s site.

Marlon Brando and Washington Square 1940’s

Washington Square Park as it looked when Marlon Brando slept on sidewalk

Updated 3:06 p.m. — Marlon Brando arrived in New York City in 1943 after he was expelled from a Minnesota military school. He wrote in his autobiography, “Brando: Songs My Mother Taught Me”, about his experience in the Village and Washington Square:

As I got out of the cab delivering me from Pennsylvania Station to my sister’s apartment in Greenwich Village in the spring of 1943, I was sporting a bright red fedora that I thought was going to knock everyone dead.

I cherish my memories of those first few days of freedom in New York, especially my sense of liberation from not having to submit to any authority, and knowing that I could go anyplace and do anything at any time.

One night I went to Washington Square and got drunk for the first time. I fell asleep on the sidewalk and nobody bothered me. …

It was ecstasy sleeping on the sidewalk of Washington Square, realizing I had no commitment to anything or anyone. If I didn’t feel like going to bed, I didn’t. I formed the sleeping patterns of a lifetime; stay up past midnight, sleep til ten or eleven the next morning.

Once I stayed up all night at a party in Brooklyn and looked out the window at a gray dawn at about six A.M. and watched the streets glow with the headlights of buses, cars and taxis. Then the sidewalks began to fill up with people carrying briefcases and scurrying to their offices. I thought, God, wouldn’t it be awful if I had to get up and go to work like that every day?

Frannie, who lived in an apartment near Patchin Place in the Village, invited me to move in with her. I got a job as an elevator operator at Best & Company department store, then worked as a waiter, a short-order cook, a sandwich man, and at other jobs I don’t remember now.

This photo – amazing, isn’t it? – captures an aerial view of what the Washington Square area looked like circa 1940-1949.

Photo credit: The Washington Square Park (New York, N.Y.) and Washington Square Area Image Collection; New York University Archives, New York University.


* Don’t forget — today, Friday, March 25th! Remember the Triangle Fire events. 11 a.m. music & procession; 12 noon speakers & ceremony. 1 block from Park! (See previous post: Triangle Fire 100th Anniversary Commemoration.)

* Saturday, March 26th – Hands Across Prospect Park – Save New York City’s Geese

Alert from Park Slope Neighbors:

This Saturday, March 26th, at 12:30 p.m., local activists will join advocacy group Friends of Animals, State Senator Eric Adams, City Council Member Letitia James, and concerned Brooklyn residents New Yorkers to link hands around the lake in Prospect Park to demonstrate for the protection of the park’s resident Canada geese.

Last year, the USDA rounded up and euthanized (WSP Blog correction) killed 368 geese that had been living in Prospect Park, setting off a raft of protests.  The culling was ostensibly done to prevent geese from colliding with airplanes, but the park’s geese were outside the protective zone that the FAA had established.

Friends of Animals is urging people to contact Mayor Bloomberg to state opposition to the culling of geese ** WSP Blog: throughout the city; over 1600 resident geese were killed last year mostly in parks throughout the five boroughs.

– Call the Mayor’s office at 311.
– Fax a message: 212-788-8123.
– Send an email to the Mayor.

For more information, please visit the Friends of Animals web site.  If you’re on Facebook, check out the Hands Around the Lake event page.

Location: Vanderbilt Street and Prospect Park Southwest, Prospect Park, Brooklyn. Map of location here.

* See previous WSP Blog post, The Killing of the Prospect Park Geese

On the Fountain Plaza: NYPD

The Park. Tuesday — People enjoying the Plaza by the Fountain. Music. Conversation. Then, large New York Police Department van appears, just sitting there, for how long I’m not sure.

I realize there are people who may (?) consider this a good thing but, a bit of overkill, no?

Previous WSP Blog post: The NYPD will be watching YOU at Washington Square Park

Garibaldi Uncovered!

From this...

to this

I’m not certain how long the statue of Mr. Giuseppe Garibaldi was covered in that somewhat atrocious bright blue cloak but, at some point, between when I posted about the status of Phase II on Friday and yesterday (Tuesday), he was uncloaked!

As for what happens next, according to Jonathan Kuhn, Director, Art & Antiquities, at the NYC Parks Department:

1) The Public Design Commission has approved all cleaning, patination, coating and restoration methodologies and procedures.

2) The contracted conservation firm performing this work plans to implement the work in the spring once the weather is cooperative and the mean temperature is adequate to conduct the work.

Good to know!

More on Garibaldi and his history from previous WSP Blog post from April 2010 when first relocated to new position: Washington Square Park’s Garibaldi Statue Moved!

p.s. Does it look like things are moving a little more swiftly? Yesterday, it sure seemed that way.

Washington Square: The Arch, Fifth Avenue

The Arch and Fifth Avenue

March 2010.

Triangle Fire 100th Anniversary Commemoration Friday, March 25th

Friday, March 25th marks the 100th Anniversary of the Triangle Factory Fire which occurred in a building one block from Washington Square Park. Lack of proper factory safety protocols led to the deaths of 146 workers, mostly young women. There are a number of events commemorating the anniversary Friday; a major one at the original site off the Park. HBO is airing a documentary premiering this evening.

From The Nation:

March 25, 1911, a fire that broke out in a bin holding scraps of fabric at the Triangle Waist Company, just down the block from New York City’s Washington Square Park, quickly spread, fed by cotton garments, tissue paper and wooden fixtures. Though the building that housed the clothing manufacturer was modern and advertised as fireproof, the cramped layout of the factory, a locked exit door, a flimsy fire escape that soon crumpled and inadequate fire department equipment brought a staggering loss of life.

Within a half-hour, 146 workers had died, mostly young Jewish and Italian women, nearly half still in their teens. Two were only 14. More than a third of the victims jumped or fell from upper-story windows trying to escape the flames.

The 100th anniversary of the Triangle Fire is being commemorated by a remarkable array of events. As it does every year, Workers United, the union that represents garment workers, is sponsoring a ceremony at the site of the fire. (The building is now part of New York University.)

Each year a fire department truck raises a ladder to the sixth floor, the highest its equipment could reach in 1911, painfully short of the eighth, ninth and tenth floors, where the fire occurred.

The attention being given to Triangle stands out in a society that rarely remembers anything connected to workers’ lives, struggles or tragedies. Why its prominence?

Triangle commands our notice in part because of the specifics of the disaster. There is something particularly horrifying about being trapped in a fire and plummeting through the air to escape it (so much so that ninety years later, on 9/11, newspapers and television generally refrained from showing images of people jumping from the World Trade Center). That so many of the victims were young and female added a layer of poignancy, as we commonly associate youth, especially young girls, with innocence, making their deaths seem even more undeserved than those of older victims of mining explosions and industrial accidents. And the Triangle Fire took place in the media capital of the country, receiving massive press coverage, including harrowing photographs difficult to forget.

From the New York Times article, “In a Tragedy, a Mission to Remember”, Remember the Triangle Fire Coalition founder Ruth Sergel:

In the wake of tragedies like Triangle or 9/11, my sense is there are actually quite wonderful things that come out and radiate from that,” she said. “There’s an immediate dropping of day-to-day falseness. You become much more compassionate and humane toward each other in those moments.

“It’s incumbent upon us if we’re going to commemorate the fire,” she added, “to commemorate the spirit of action that grew out of the fire.”

Friday, March 25th, Major 100th Anniversary Event at the Site, NYC:

11:00 a.m. – Music and Procession
12:00 p.m. – Speakers (including NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg) and Ceremony

Location: Former home of the Triangle Waist Company, corner of Washington Place and Greene Street
(one block east of Washington Square Park)

Note: The site of the Triangle Fire is now New York University’s Brown Building of Science.

Washington Square Park Redesign: Phase II Unveiling is Imminent … Well, At least, Some of It is

New York City Parks Department’s Redesign of Washington Square Park: Phase II — modified from its original plan which included additional elements like the Mounds and large Dog Run (now in Phase III) – is close to ready for unveiling. At least, the Eastern side of the Park is. The Southwestern side is still challenged and likely two months from completion.

This brings up the question: Will the Parks Department have two grand opening ceremonies to celebrate first the unveiling of Phase II East and then Phase II SouthWest? How will this be handled? Something should open, don’t you think? And soon.

Washington Square Park’s Phase II construction began in the Fall of 2009. At the time, the scheduled completion date was September 2010. See previous WSP Blog coverage of the delays and reasons for them. The projected cost of Phases I, II and III is now at $30 Million and counting.

Still, additional questions remain:

  • Will the Garibaldi statue soon be refinished and unveiled? (It’s really time for him to get out of that bright blue cloak. I’ve written to the Landmarks Preservation Commission update: it’s the – Public Design Commission – which is – the agency which will ultimately give the go ahead on how Garibaldi should be completed with no response as yet.)
  • Is completion of the large kids’ playground on the Northeast side majorly delayed due to Parks Department, um, actions? Will this further hold up the Eastern side from – at last – opening?
  • Is it even conceivable that the Chess Plaza will open at the same time as the Eastern section? This section is lagging way behind partly due to the fact that the Parks Department’s original design for the area had to be redone (a tree was in the ‘way’ of the circle). The Chess Plaza and surrounding SW Quadrant are still about two months from completion whereas the Eastern side is pretty close to finished (assuming there will be resolution on Garibaldi and Children’s Playground some day soon).
  • The sidewalk that borders the Northeastern section of the park is in terrible shape. (I did not survey every sidewalk around the park but this got my attention; see photo.) Will the park open with it left this way?

Latest on Washington Square Park Redesign: Phase II in Photos:

New Low Stage by Garibaldi Replaces "Teen Plaza" Stage Area

Garibaldi Remains Under Wraps

Pathway East of the Arch

Seating Alcove Northern End (Playground in Background)

Sidewalks in Disrepair, Northeastern Perimeter

The Hills Are Alive (Washington Sq North)

NE Entrance

Seating Alcove Eastern Side (does look smaller?)

Western End of Park Still Challenged

Tree in Chess Plaza - at Right - Which Caused Drama

Oh, and my vote in how this will be handled is that the Parks Department will have a grand opening of the Eastern section of Washington Square Park in April, possibly May, and then, with less fanfare, open the Chess Plaza area.

*** Previous WSP Blog coverage of the delays and reasons for them. ***

Window on Waverly Place

Off the Park.

** More on Washington Square Park Redesign: Phase II coming later today. **

NYU Unveils Latest — Public Meeting Monday, March 21st

Crain’s NY Business, today: NYU reveals latest updates to 2031 Plan

From Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation:

NYU is still seeking to add up to 2.2 million square feet of space — the equivalent of the Empire State Building — to the blocks just below Washington Square Park, and another 1 to 1.5 million square feet of space in the surrounding neighborhood. They are seeking major zoning changes to eliminate open space preservation requirements. They are seeking to take over public land currently used as park and recreational space. And they are seeking a massive zoning changes for nine blocks south and east of Washington Square, changing the zoning from residential to commercial.

* NYU 2031 Plan (WSP area is the “Core.”)

NYU will present the plans to the public at a meeting on Monday, March 21, 6:30 p.m.
Location: Grace Church School Auditorium, 86 Fourth Avenue (at 11th Street).