Press Release

Gillibrand, Garbarino Introduce Bipartisan, Bicameral Fire Island Aids Memorial Act

Jan 30, 2024

Today, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Congressman Andrew R. Garbarino (R-NY-02) are announcing the introduction of the bipartisan and bicameral Fire Island AIDS Memorial Act. This legislation would authorize The Pines Foundation to establish and maintain a memorial at Fire Island National Seashore to honor the residents of Fire Island who died of AIDS, to be known as the “Fire Island AIDS Memorial.” The Fire Island AIDS Memorial would also educate future generations about the AIDS epidemic and the impact that it had on Fire Island, and particularly the Fire Island Pines and Cherry Grove communities. New York was at the epicenter of the AIDS epidemic in the United States, and more than 130,000 people in the Empire State diagnosed with AIDS have died as of 2022.

Members of the Fire Island Pines and Cherry Grove communities began developing the proposal for the Fire Island AIDS Memorial in 2020, and have been dedicated to advancing the project ever since. Senator Gillibrand started working with the community members over two years ago to help them get approval from the National Park Service (NPS) to establish the Fire Island AIDS Memorial on a portion of Fire Island National Seashore located between Fire Island Pines and Cherry Grove. However, it became increasingly clear that legislation would be needed to achieve the communities’ vision, which is why the senator decided to draft the Fire Island AIDS Memorial Act.

“Fire Island Pines and Cherry Grove have long been, and will always be, a home and safe haven for the LGBTQ+ community. This was especially true during the AIDS epidemic,” said Senator Gillibrand. “I wrote and introduced the Fire Island AIDS Memorial Act because this community deserves to cement the memories of loved ones lost to one of the worst epidemics in the history of humankind and to acknowledge the caregivers and friends who mobilized to care for those in the Pines and Cherry Grove who died. I’m proud to have stood with the LGBTQ+ community my entire career, and I thank Congressman Garbarino for supporting this bipartisan bill. We will never forget the devastating loss of life to AIDS in New York and across the country as we continue fighting to ensure the safety and well-being of the HIV/AIDS community.”

“I am proud to partner with Senator Gillibrand to introduce the bipartisan bicameral Fire Island AIDS Memorial Act. With this legislation, we honor and remember the many residents of Fire Island Pines and Cherry Grove who suffered and died from the AIDS epidemic and ensure that future generations are educated about the impact of the AIDS epidemic on the Fire Island community.” – Congressman Garbarino

“Four decades after the terrifying AIDS epidemic began to take the lives of millions of people, it is clear that we must never forget the pain and suffering the pandemic brought to the Fire Island communities of The Pines and Cherry Grove. A memorial marking the loss of so many to AIDS is long overdue and I thank Senator Gillibrand and Congressman Garbarino for their actions in honoring those lost and those who exercised their rights as Americans to fight for healthcare and action from the government to save lives. It is a period in history we must never let fade into oblivion, and this memorial will help remind us all of the importance of unity in the face of adversity.” – Suffolk County Executive Ed Romaine 

“No two communities were more impacted by the AIDS epidemic than the Fire Island Pines and Cherry Grove. The epidemic devastated these communities leaving behind ghost towns of lost friends and lovers. This history cannot be forgotten – this memorial will help ensure future generations honor and remember those who were affected. Thank you to Senator Gillibrand and Representative Garbarino for their leadership and support.” Jay Pagano, on behalf of the Pines Foundation.

“The Fire Island Association applauds the efforts of Senator Gillibrand and Congressman Garbarino to secure federal authorization to create the Fire Island AIDS Memorial. This Memorial will serve as a perpetual tribute to our friends and neighbors in the Pines and Cherry Grove who were lost in the AIDS epidemic, and also to those who dedicated themselves to caring for them. FIA is also grateful that the Memorial assures that future generations will learn about the doleful impact of the epidemic on the island we all love. –Suzy Goldhirsch, President of the Fire Island Association

“Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS applauds, supports and is grateful to Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and Representative Andrew Garbarino for championing the creation of the Fire Island AIDS Memorial with the National Parks Service and Congress in both the House and Senate. The Fires Island Pines has been a home, safe haven and site of celebration, community and comfort for the LGBTQ+ community in New York State and indeed across the nation for decades. The beloved memories of loved ones, sustained activism and resilience will be assured by such a memorial, as surely as the sun comes up over the Atlantic and nature’s boundless embrace daily.” Tom Viola, Executive Director Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS 

“The Fire Island AIDS Memorial will provide a way to honor the thousands of Fire Island Residents lost to AIDS way too young and who are currently unrecognized.” – Cleve Jones, founder of the NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt

This bill has been endorsed by The Pines Foundation, GLAAD, The New York City AIDS Memorial, and Housing Works.

For text of the bill, please click here.