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Healing Garden of the Federated Garden Clubs of New York State (Staten Island)
Type of Memorial: Community Garden, Traffic Strip or Streetscape
Location: Intersection of Clove Road, Narrows Road South, and Targee Street
City: Staten Island
State: New York
Country: United States
Open to Public: Yes
Description: This project is headed by members from Staten Island District 1 of the Federated Garden Clubs of NY State--a group with over 200 members that has been in existence for 75 years. They would like to do more than just beautify a traffic median; rather, they want to create a healing, sacred space. Speaking with them, one is conveyed with a strong sense of their emotional commitment to the project and their need to "do something" after September 11. They noted that Staten Island was hit harder than any other borough in terms of lives lost, and that they are still recovering, just doing this is hard. Tearing up when discussing both the tragedy and the memorial, they are creating it as an act of compassion, remembrance, and shared loss in the wake of disaster; and to bring together the community....It is a deserving memorial for all those lost, a reminder of how lives changed, and a peaceful place for all. While the women anticipate that flowers and mementos may be brought, they would prefer that the focus of the memorial remain on the garden, the living element. A living memorial is valuable because with so much death, we need something positive going up, instead of just more stone.
The site is a 65 x 439 ft traffic median owned by the Department of Transportation between several heavily trafficked roads, in the shadow of the Staten Island Expressway. It is a largely barren site, but the area closest to the Rescue 5 firehouse has a firefighters and veterans memorial. Rescue 5 lost more firefighters than any other firehouse in Staten Island. They chose the site because it is already a special place for the firefighters, and [they] want to enhance the whole space, which is barren and neglected. They have planted 78 smoke trees, and need to do so with an eye towards the surrounding conditions and the maintenance of the site (particularly mowing). Also in their proposal is a circle of 11 trees dedicated to fallen firefighters, surrounded with a brick walkway.
The garden club held a September 9 groundbreaking ceremony featuring public officials, Marine Corps, and firefighters planted he 78 trees. In October, there is an annual memorial service of retired firefighter and veterans that will continue to occur in the improved space. They do intend to reach out to the broader garden club, school, business, and resident communities within Staten Island. There is a school directly across from the site with which they hope to engage in historical, educational, and experiential work on the site.
The gardeners believe that their site will be sacred in that the granite memorial element will contain the names of the lives lost, and the trees will last for generations into the future.