Volume 17, Number 51 | May 13 - 19, 2005

Downtown Express photo by Elisabeth Robert

Sir Phillip Thomas, British Consul-General, Camilla Hellman, president of the British Memorial Garden Trust, and Adrian Benepe broke ground on the garden at Hanover Square.

Work begins on Downtown’s British Memorial Garden

By M.L. Liu

Against the sound of jackhammers and machinery, the groundbreaking ceremony for the British Memorial Garden at Hanover Square was held this past Tuesday morning.

Adrian Benepe, the city’s Parks Department commissioner, referred to construction going on across the street as a sign that others were invested in the future of Lower Manhattan. He described the garden as a celebration of the friendship and alliance between Great Britain and the United States, saying that it would be “one of the great public spaces, the great public gardens of New York City.”

The British Memorial Garden in Hanover Square will also commemorate the 67 British citizens who died in the 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center.

Sir Philip Thomas, British Consul-General in New York, and Camilla Hellman, president and executive director of the British Memorial Garden Trust, also spoke at the ceremony. Hellman thanked those present for their support of the garden, which has been in development for over two years and which is scheduled to open next year.

Rufus Albemarle, artistic director of the British Memorial Garden Trust, seemed satisfied with the group’s progress so far. “There’s a lot of different sets of difficulties that one has to go through to get a park built,” he said after the ceremony.

Asked if he had heard any complaints from local residents about British sculptor Anish Kapoor’s design for a memorial in the garden, Albemarle said, “In any good thing there’s resistance. Are they resisting the fact that there’s art in the park? Or are they resisting because they don’t like the artist? If they understand that it’s a gift to New York City, they would see it in a different light.”

A bedsheet with the words “NYC Park for NYC Children” painted on it was tied at some point during the ceremony to the outside of the chain-link fence surrounding Hanover Square, indicating perhaps that there are some who oppose the way this three-quarter acre space will be developed.

Kevin Buckley and some other residents of 3 Hanover Square, which adjoins the square, said in telephone interviews that they have not been properly informed about the British Memorial Garden’s development. “I only found out about the garden through doing research on the Internet,” said Buckley.

While Buckley praised the idea of the garden, he said the memorial should have been more in keeping with the neighborhood’s historic style.

Cindy, who declined to give her last name, and Shane Gritzinger, also residents of 3 Hanover Square, expressed concerns about pedestrian safety and the amount of noise that would be generated by additional construction in front of their building.

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