New York's Irish Hunger Memorial is open again after renovations!
The $5.3 million renovations and waterproofing of the Irish Hunger Memorial in Battery Park in Manhattan is finally completed and the memorial is now ready for visitors. The Great Hunger Memorial depicts a ruined cottage in a rural Mayo setting smack in the middle of downtown Manhattan.
The project restored the monument to its former magnificence, while rendering it significantly less susceptible to damage from weather for years to come. It has been closed for close to two years. It opened briefly last year but other problems arose.
According to the Tribeca Trib newspaper, the renovation process was especially difficult because the landscaping, reproduced from Ireland, had to be re-assembled just as it was.
All of the stones on the memorial, which sits on a half-acre at Vesey Street and North End Avenue, “had to be removed, taken down and catalogued, and soil was removed and in some cases brought back,” Gwen Dawson of the Battery Park City Authority said.
“All of those stones got put back in the right place. Our contractor has done a spectacular job.”
The memorial, according to its official description, “represents a rural Irish landscape with an abandoned stone cottage, stone walls, fallow potato fields and the flora on the north Connacht wetlands. It is both a metaphor for the Great Irish Famine and a reminder that hunger today is often the result of lack of access to land.”
The restoration project at the 15-year old memorial located in Battery Park City, overlooking the Hudson River, commenced after the site was closed waterproofing and drainage issues -- some of which were related to Hurricane Sandy in 2012 -- which caused significant decay to the tourist attraction.
The Memorial, designed by internationally renowned sculptor and public artist Brian Tolle, originally opened in 2002. It is a contemplative space devoted to honor the Great Irish Hunger and Migration of 1845-1852, while encouraging viewers to contemplate present-day hunger worldwide. Over the years, it had succumbed to water infiltration from above and subsequent water damage.
The half-acre site on the corner of Vesey Street and North End Avenue, in the Battery Park City section of downtown Manhattan, overlooks the Hudson River. Visitors to the 96' x 170' Memorial wind through a rural Irish landscape, with paths carved into a hill thickly lined with native Irish plants and stones imported from each of Ireland’s 32 counties.
The paths lead to a breathtaking viewing point 25 feet above street level, which boasts views of the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. Located centrally along the pathways is an authentic Irish Famine-era stone cottage that was donated to the Memorial by Tolle’s extended family, the Slacks of Attymass, County Mayo. It was disassembled and brought over from Ireland and reconstructed on-site, within the green “hillside” of the Memorial.
“The Irish Hunger Memorial was first dedicated over 15 years ago; it has now re-opened to stand for coming generations as a place of reflection and remembrance. And just as America has long welcomed immigrants from Ireland and beyond, we’re pleased to once again welcome Battery Park City visitors to experience this poignant tribute to the unbreakable human spirit,” said a statement from the Battery Park City Authority.
The cottage, pathways, and plant-filled meadows are cantilevered over a layered base of glass and polished fossil-bed limestone from County Kilkenny, Ireland. Shadowy text that relates to both the Famine and reports of contemporary hunger form upon the frosted glass panels, wrapping around the exterior of the Memorial and into the passageway leading to the cottage.
This project held vital significance for the renovation architect CTA Architects. According to principal Daniel J. Allen, AIA, “Many of us on the project have strong ties to Ireland, making this much more than basic renovation work to us. We were painstaking in our repairs in order to keep the artist’s vision intact.” Similarly, CTA’s project manager for the Memorial, Frank Scanlon, AIA, grew up in County Roscommon and in County Mayo. “We were thrilled to be able to provide a solution to keep the Memorial open year-round for years to come,” he said.
The project team also included construction manager The LiRo Group, landscape consultant and architect SiteWorks; mechanical, electrical, and plumbing (M/E/P) engineer Collado Engineering, P.C.; and structural engineer GACE Consulting Engineers.
Soon after the Memorial was first opened to the public, Battery Park authorities noticed cracking and a leak from the cantilevered slab where the monument’s landscaping and cottage were located. Despite a temporary fix the problem continued but it has now been completely dealt with.
The New York Times raved about the memorial when it opened in 2002. Critic Roberta Smith said it struck a “deep emotional chord” and expanded “the understanding of what a public memorial can be.”
The memorial’s cultural liaison was Adrian Flannelly, the long-time Irish radio show host. Flannelly was one of the driving forces behind the creation of the memorial, which is open every day from 11 am until 6:30 pm and is free of charge.