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Family members, civic associations and residents are beginning to speak up about proposals for a permanent memorial in Belle Harbor to honor the 265 people who died Nov. 12, 2001 when American Airlines Flight 587 crashed into the Rockaway Peninsula, local officials said.
Groups representing the 260 passengers who died on the flight and the five people who perished when parts of the plane set houses afire in Belle Harbor have been in serious talks about memorial plans since the one-year anniversary of the crash, said John Lepore, president of the Rockaway Chamber of Commerce. But he said no one proposal has emerged that satisfies both Belle Harbor residents and family members of the passengers and crew on the plane.
A lot of people have a lot of different ideas about what form a memorial would take, Lepore said of the proposals to build a memorial near, at or on 131st Street and Newport Avenue in Belle Harbor. Im pleased theres been good communication between all the communities involved. I think ultimately we will find something thats acceptable to everyone.
A published report said last week that Alianza Dominicana, a Washington Heights social services agency, had plans for a memorial it was going to present to city officials. Moises Perez, executive director of the group, did not return repeated calls.
A spokeswoman at Mayor Michael Bloombergs office said she did not know anything about Alianza Dominicanas plans to develop a memorial on the Belle Harbor crash site.
The American Airlines Airbus 300-600 crashed Nov. 12, 2001 at 9:16 a.m. when it was flying a regular route from New York to the Dominican Republic, transporting passengers between friends and family in both countries.
More than half of the 260 people aboard the plane were Dominicans, who regularly take the popular daily shuttle that inspired a merengue song with lyrics called Flight 587.
Lepore said any plans commemorating the crash will be difficult to implement because a memorial at the Belle Harbor site would have to be built on private property. He also said there are more than four groups that represent Dominican family members, making a consensus among them with Belle Harbor residents and civic associations difficult.
There is no one group or set of individuals who have a concrete plan that everyone says, I can live with that, Lepore said. But I do feel confident that something good will come out of this.
Lepore said tentative plans for a memorial started immediately after the crash, but family members and other concerned groups stepped up the pressure to honor the crash victims after the one-year anniversary. He said, however, that even though a single memorial plan has not taken shape, the communication between the Belle Harbor and Washington Heights communities has brought two different groups together.
Im pleased theres been good communication between all the communities. Weve developed a friendship with the people in Washington Heights, he said. Youre dealing with something where a lot of people lost their lives mourning and loss are very important things that people deal with differently.
Reach reporter Alex Davidson by e-mail at TimesLedger@aol.com or by phone at 229-0300, Ext. 156.
©2003 Community Newspaper Group
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