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Joseph Manoleas, community liaison in the university’s community affairs office, said in a November 11 telephone interview that NYU was “committed to working with the coalition,” but that any discussion about the exterior of the Brown Building was premature. “We are still in the conceptual phase,” he said.
The infamous Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire started in a bin of scraps on the eighth floor of the garment factory only a few minutes before quitting time and spread quickly to the two floors above. More than 60 people jumped to their deaths from the loft factory’s ninth floor, as a crowd on the streets below watched in horror. Evidence offered at the trial of the factory’s two owners pointed to a locked door that blocked escape from the ninth floor, but the pair was acquitted of all charges.
In the aftermath, union activists and women’s groups pushed for reform, leading to the enactment of 36 safety and labor laws within two years by the New York State Legislature. Those laws served as a model for nationwide reform.
Three bronze plaques on the exterior of the Brown Building mark its status as a national landmark, the number of lives lost in the Triangle fire and the role the International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union played in changing working conditions.
Trasciatti said she hoped that the creation of an arts memorial would invoke memory or encourage reflection and call people to the site. Designs that were too technological or abstract “would not be ideal,” but she expected the names of the victims to be included.
“These were men and women, flesh and blood, who perished. Recognizing their humanity is really important,” she said.
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