It’s no secret that Four Freedoms Park is one of the city’s most anticipated green spaces, but the story of how it came to be reveals all kinds of interesting historical tidbits. For example, we had no idea that until 1973, Roosevelt Island was known as Welfare Island and Blackwell’s Island before that. The island was renamed through an effort by New York City Mayor John Lindsay, who said, “It has long seemed to us that an ideal place for a memorial to FDR would be on Welfare Island, which…could be easily renamed in his honor… It would face the sea he loved, the Atlantic he bridged, the Europe he helped to save, the United Nations he inspired.” It’s also fitting that such a tribute to FDR reside in New York since the president was born here and called the city his home.
So we know that the island was successfully renamed in the 70s, but what then happened to the plan for the park at its tip? Louis I. Kahn was called in to design Franklin D. Roosevelt Four Freedoms Park in 1972 and funds for the project were raised by The Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt Institute, but Kahn was never able to deliver his final design; in fact he was carrying the blueprints with him when he passed away just two years later. After Kahn’s death, Mitchell | Giurgola Architects, took over the project but it wasn’t until 2005 that an exhibition at Cooper Union in 2005 spurred enough attention and funding to keep it alive.
Now, 40 years after Kahn first began designing it, Franklin D. Roosevelt Four Freedoms Park will finally come to fruition. Roosevelt Islanders and other New Yorkers will be able to rest under its large shade trees, overlook the city skyline and reflect in the “Room,” a meditative space at the end of the park which was inspired by FDR’s belief that any problem between individuals or nations could be solved by them sitting together to discuss things peacefully as around the family dining room table.
We hope that you enjoyed this small preview of the Four Freedoms Park. The park is set to open on October 24, 2012, so be sure to visit when it does!
Images © Yuka Yoneda