Brooklyn Bridge Park won’t name lawn for photojournalist killed in Libya

Chris Hondros
Photojournalist Chris Hondros is pictured here in front of a burning building in Misrata, Libya. The photo was taken on April 18, 2011, two days before he was killed by a rocket-propelled grenade (RPG). (Credit: Kate Orlinsky/Getty Images.)

Despite an apparent outpouring of support for a proposal first put forward by Wall Street Journal photo editor Patrick Whelan, efforts to name a Brooklyn Bridge Park lawn in memory of photojournalist Chris Hondros have been quashed, as the officials behind the lawn-naming contest state that they will not consider naming the space after an individual.

Brooklyn Bridge Park Conservancy Executive Director Nancy Webster said they received over 200 e-mails about Hondros. 

Hondros was born in Queens and lived in Brooklyn, most recently in DUMBO, the same neighborhood in which the park is located. He was killed on assignment in Misrata, Libya on April 20, 2011, while covering the rebel uprising. Metro has gathered some of his photos from Libya in a slideshow on the left.

That Hondros’ birthday is this Thursday, March 14, and the second anniversary of his death is next month, contributed to the urgency and excitement to name the lawn for him, Whelan told Photo District News.

Webster said that when the e-mails about Hondros started coming in, they realized their intentions with the contest “hadn’t been clear enough.”

“What we were looking for was a name that was expressive of the park and in line with names for other sections of the park, like the Harbor View Lawn or the Spiral Tidal Pool,” Webster said.

The e-mails about Hondros were so moving, though, that they felt compelled to reply.

“We realized that we had raised expectations of doing something that we felt like we couldn’t fulfill,” Webster explained.

Webster’s e-mail response explained their original intentions, and went on to say that “there are so very many deserving and special Brooklyn residents to memorialize and pay tribute to… as such, the naming of one lawn for one person does not seem fully inclusive of the larger community.”

Photographer Alan Chin told PDN that the message was “disingenuous.”

“All kinds of parks and parts of parks are named for all kinds of people,” he added.

Chin referenced the Louis J. Valentino Park in his neighborhood, named for a local firefighter who died in a burning building in 1996, and PDN added a number of “city-run parks in Brooklyn alone” including McCarren Park, Maria Hernandez Park, J.J. Byrne Payfround, or the Lt. Federico Narvarez Tot Lot, which were named for a state senator, a city council member, a Building Department clerk and a New York police lieutenant respectively.

But Webster stood firm on that position.

“There’s usually a much more involved process around doing that and in this instance we were speaking of a very small lawn within the park and wanting to stay within the framework of names that were suggestive of park features,” she said.

Webster said they will not consider naming the park for Hondros, or any person.

However, the e-mail sent to some of Hondros’ supporters stated that “as Brooklyn Bridge Park continues to grow and mature, we will be considering how we might best honor the memories of those we have lost,” and promised to reach out to the Chris Hondros Fund, established after his death to support emerging photojournalists,  ”to see if there might be a more fitting way to pay tribute to Chris and his work.”

Christina Piaia, President of the Chris Hondros Fund and Hondros’ fiancé, said she hoped a physical space to “gather in [Hondros'] name” could be established, and “that the group of friends that started this and the Fund can take a role in that, too.”

“We got a lot of lovely notes about times people spent with Chris in New York,” Piaia said. “We were disappointed by the news, but we’re hopeful that this can build momentum to continue Chris’ legacy in other ways.”

 

Benefit and silent auction to come in June

Plans are underway for the Chris Hondros Fund’s second annual benefit and silent auction, where the Chris Hondros and Getty Images Award will be bestowed to an emerging photojournalist.

The event will take place sometime in June of this year, Piaia said.

Last year’s event featured Lara Logan from CBS as a guest speaker, and the first ever Christ Hondros and Getty Images award was given to photojournalist Andrea Bruce. The Fund is in the process of selecting a team of nominators to choose this year’s winner in the spring.

Piaia said she is looking forward to this year’s event, after the success of last year.

“Being in that room with so many people who loved him was a very cathartic experience,” she said.

 

Follow Danielle Tcholakian on Twitter @danielleiat


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