The Hurricane Maria Memorial That Is Coming to Battery Park City

Rendering of Hurricane Maria Memorial at the overlook near Chambers Street and North End Avenue. Credit: NY State Governor's Office

Mar. 13, 2020

Two-and-a-half years after Hurricane Maria ravaged Puerto Rico, killing more than 3,000 people, Gov. Andrew Cuomo last week unveiled the design for a memorial that will stand in Battery Park City.

Overlooking Rockefeller Park at Chambers Street and North End Avenue, the $700,000 Hurricane Maria Memorial, designed by architect Segundo Cardona and artist Antonio Martorell, will be a glass spiral meant to evoke a hurricane and a shell, topped with a rotating star of the Puerto Rican flag. Glass panels painted by Martorell will include the poem “Farewell from Welfare Island” by Puerto Rican poet Julia de Burgos, her only work in English.

“Our idea was that the memorial needed to be visually strong, accessible and sensitive to the site,” Cardona and Martorell said in a joint statement. “We felt committed to work hard to bring together architecture, art and literature in one single powerful message that we hope will engage and invoke reflection on the fate of the many victims.”

A Cuomo-appointed commission selected the design from among 120 submissions. 

“With this memorial on the shore of the Hudson River, New York State will honor our Puerto Rican brothers and sisters who were tragically lost during the devastation from Hurricane Maria,” Cuomo said in a statement.

Cuomo is able to site memorials and monuments on state-owned Battery Park City land. He has also announced that he wants to put a statue of Mother Cabrini in the neighborhood, and expand the Museum of Jewish Heritage. In December 2018, after the governor announced the Hurricane Maria site, Community Board 1 noted that Battery Park City already has a number of memories and “there are numerous other locations within the state that could be better suited to locate the memorial than Battery Park City.”  The resolution also noted the lack of local representation on the memorial commission and absence of consultation with CB1.

Tammy Meltzer, chair of the committee and CB1 vice chair, was among the most vocal critics. She said the governor should have looked for a more appropriate location. “In deference to the people of Puerto Rico and honoring them, I think it could have been better located in a [neighborhood] that has stronger ties to the Puerto Rican community.”

Meltzer didn’t change her mind after seeing the design, but she did say she was impressed. “It’s beautiful,” she said. “Truly evocative of resiliency and the Puerto Rican community, both on the island and here in New York.”

The memorial is expected to be completed by the spring of next year.