“Marking the importance of the Triangle Shirtwaist fire is why NYU affirmatively supported the designation of the Brown Building as a landmark. It’s why we have accommodated journalists and documentarians who have worked on projects about the fire. And it’s why we have already begun working with groups both inside and outside the University in advance of the 100th anniversary to plan for that important event.”
UPDATE #2: We received the following statement from Sherry Kane at Workers United at 4:25pm (note coordination with the NYU statement, above):
We saw a press release this morning announcing the 99th anniversary of the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire today and wanted to ensure the annual memorial honoring the victims was noted in these here webpages.
“Locked doors prevented workers from escaping,” goes the narrative of the release, “causing 146 young immigrant workers to jump to their deaths or die in the fire.”
In 1911, the fire was viewed as one of the “worst industrial accidents in the United States”; equally significant, it “served as an impetus for labor law and fire safety reforms.”
Each year, on the fire’s anniversary, “hundreds gather to remember the victims and continue the fight for safe workplace conditions.” Obviously a fight worth having.
But not if you represent New York University.
For the building where the fire occurred has been owned by New York University for years. As an undergraduate, I studied in the building — sometimes, actually, on the same floor where so many young workers died so long ago. This anniversary is indeed honored each year — again, as an undergraduate, I used to watch the ceremony from across the street (the building is located on the corner of Greene Street and Washington Place, just east of Washington Square Park in Greenwich Village, part of a warren of narrow streets where cobblestone still reigns).
Who will today’s guest speakers be for the annual memorial? Well, perhaps I’m a fool, but when I ran across the press release, I naturally assumed that someone, anyone, from NYU would make at least a perfunctory appearance. After all, the university does own the building. Fire safety is not a political philosophy. Presumably the plaque on the corner of the building signifying the fire is maintained or at least kept clean by NYU workers. But, no. Per the press release, the list will include:
Bruce Raynor, President, Workers United, SEIU
John Liu, Comptroller of the City of New York
Salvatore J. Cassano, New York City Fire Commissioner
Jack Ahern, President of the NYC Central Labor Council, AFL-CIO
Michael Mulgrew, President, United Federation of Teachers
Ana Maria Acosta, Workers United, SEIU member
Suzanne Pred Bass, Relative of Triangle Fire victim Rose Wiener
In the interest of journalistic due diligence, we have both emailed and called NYU’s press office for comment. No word yet. We will, of course, update this post if the university does respond.
What we do know, however, is that if NYU President John Sexton is in town, his office is literally a half-block away.
Is the man intent upon demolishing Greenwich Village actually too cowardly to honor the dead? Or was he perhaps not even invited?