HCC dedicates Memorial Garden to the 265 people who died in the crash of AA Flight 587

Bronx, NY. – Eugenio Maria de Hostos Community College dedicated a $1.2 million Memorial Garden to the 265 people who lost their lives in the crash of American Airlines Flight 587 in the Belle Harbor neighborhood of Queens, New York.

The project involved the conversion of a plaza between college buildings at 450 and 500 Grand Concourse into a garden with landscaping, a waterfall, outdoor, lighting, benches, a clock, a fountain, dedicated paving stones, and a memorial wall listing the names of those who died in the crash.

Dozens of relatives and friends of those killed in the accident attended the ceremony held on Saturday, November 18, 2006 at 11am at Hostos Community College, 500 Grand Concourse, Bronx, NY.

“When this tragedy happened on November 12, 2001, after the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center, Hostos Community College opened its heart and doors to the families and friends of those who perished on American Airlines Flight 587 bound for the Dominican Republic,” said Genara Olivia Ortiz, an Hostos student whose husband, Elvis Sanchez, was a passenger aboard the doomed plane.

In preparation for the dedication ceremony, earlier in the week Ortiz came with her children to the College’s Office of Public Relations to learn more about the memorial and express her feelings.

“I came to the Office of Public Relations because I was anxious to know what was happening with the memorial. Every single day when I come to classes at Hostos, I stop in front of the memorial construction site to nose a little bit and see how it’s going,” said she as her eyes welled with tears.

“This Memorial Garden is a heartfelt gift from Hostos Community College. This is a place that has become a welcoming refuge where family members and friends of those who lost their lives come to mourn and console each other. This is a place where we can come and cry if we want to; where we can come to talk to our departed loved ones if we wish to; we can meet freely as a family to share our pain with one another without having to go over there in Queens,” Ortiz stated without pausing:

“Here at Hostos, I feel deep inside of me, and around and all over me, the spirit of my husband. I couldn’t feel that way at the memorial in Queens. The memorial site over there was arbitrarily chosen by someone we didn’t know because the owner of the property where the accident happened would not allow us to build a memorial there. However, over here at Hostos, we were kindly given a site for the memorial, and that has made a big difference…I would say a big, big difference for which all of us will be eternally grateful,” said Ortiz, as her little son grabbed from her hand a copy of the College’s press advisory about today’s event.

“What is this, Mommy?” 10-year-old son asked as he gazed at the paper.

“I will explain it to you later, sweetheart,” she said while trying to hold back her tears.

“With this Memorial Garden, Hostos Community College is honoring the memory of passengers on American Airlines Flight 587, and we are also remembering those who died in the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001,” said Hostos Community College President Dolores M. Fernandez in a written statement.

“The total cost of the memorial garden came to roughly $1.2 million,” said the College’s Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost Daisy Cocco DeFilippis on behalf of President Fernandez who could not attend the event due to the death of her brother. “Of this amount, $100,000 was provided by a grant from the New York City Council, and $1.2 million was reallocated from the College’s renovation capital project for the B building at 500 Grand Concourse.”

The project was realized under the leadership of President Fernandez, and with the support and dedication of the Hostos community, the AA Flight 587 Committee, and Hostos Community College Senior Vice President for Administration and Finance Esther Rodriguez-Chardavoyne and her staff, including Steve Delgado, Associate Dean of Facilities and Management.

The key players involved in the design and construction of the memorial include Steven Mitchell and Michael Coffee of Goshow Architects; Ann Kaufman-Webster, Project Manager, and Lay Chang Lee, Deputy Director, from the CUNY Department of Design & Construction Management; Samir Rimawi, Project Manager and Daniel Burgos, Field Representative from the Dormitory Authority of the State of New York (DASNY).

“On this fifth anniversary of the tragic crash of American Airlines Flight 587, all of us at The City University of New York offer our deepest sympathy to the families of the 265 victims,” said CUNY Chancellor Matthew Goldstein in a written statement. “We hope that the Memorial Plaza at Hostos Community College, located in close proximity to the neighborhoods that were home to so many victims, will provide relatives, friends, and all New Yorkers a serene place to come together in remembrance and mourning. On behalf of the University, I thank the New York City Council, President Dolores Fernandez, and the entire Hostos community for their dedicated support of the creation of this enduring memorial garden.”

“I hope that as every flower blossoms in these gardens, so too will the dreams that those who died on that day had for their families and the Dominican community,” said U.S. Congressman Charles Rangel at the event. “May these gardens and every Flight 587 memorial continue to inspire us all and serve as a reminder of the beauty and strength of the Dominican people.”

The memorial garden will be open to the general public as well as members of the college community on a daily basis.

Hostos Community College is a unique and intimate college that has experienced a very positive transformation in recent years. With new leadership at almost every level and a faculty dedicated to academic excellence, the College has created an intellectually rich environment with high standards. In addition to new academic programs, renovated facilities, and a new fitness center, the college has created a winning athletic program, significantly improved technology, and hired more full-time faculty with the highest degree in their fields.

Nestor Montilla,
Director of Public Relations

Office of Institutional Development
Eugenio Maria de Hostos Community College
of The City University of New York
120 East 149th Street, Rm. 214 E
Bronx, NY 10451Bronx, New York 10451
Tel. (718) 518-4355
Fax #: (718) 518-4240

Email: nmontilla@HOSTOS.CUNY.EDU