We welcome this opportunity to talk to Roosevelt Island residents in the Community Column as we close out the third full year of operations at Franklin D. Roosevelt Four Freedoms Park.
The Four Freedoms Park Conservancy, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization incorporated in June 2011, is responsible for this New York State Park under a Cooperative Agreement with the New York State Parks Department. The Conservancy’s mission is to operate and maintain this new public space, and to honor the life and legacy of President Roosevelt through a full schedule of educational initiatives and public programming.
In 1973, nearly 40 years before the Park opened to the public, architect Louis Kahn presented his vision for what would become the first memorial dedicated to President Roosevelt in his home state. It was a simple idea. “I had this thought,” Kahn said, “that a memorial should be a room and a garden.”
Less than a year later, Kahn died; Governor Nelson Rockefeller, who initiated the project with Mayor John Lindsay, moved to Washington, DC, as Vice President; and the City of New York was nearly bankrupt. These factors made the memorial’s future a fragile and tenuous dream. But contributors dedicated to the original design persevered. Four decades after Kahn completed his architectural drawings, Four Freedoms Park became the place he envisioned.
Today, the Park has welcomed more than 432,000 visitors. Among them are over 2,000 NYC students on Conservancy-led guided visits and art workshops, and a host of runners, yogis, photographers, artists, architecture enthusiasts, and families and children -- including many Island residents.
If you visit the Park on a weekday, you might find our education department teaching a group of students about Park-related history or design themes. Students could be sketching the skyline, creating their own architectural model, or analyzing how the Four Freedoms apply to their lives today. We especially enjoy hosting students from Island schools.
On weekends, we offer free public tours where you can learn about the history of Franklin D. Roosevelt, the Park, architecture, and design. Those who would prefer to learn about Roosevelt from the comfort of their homes or on a self-guided tour of the Park can check out fdr4freedoms.org. The website, launched earlier this year, provides an in-depth history of Roosevelt’s life and the mark he left on this country.
Throughout the warmer half of the year, we host public programs and events, including kite-making workshops [last one is today, Saturday, September 26], musical performances, and yoga classes led by Island instructors. October is a particularly busy month for events at the Park. The Uni Project, a pop-up reading room, returns next weekend (October 3-4) with our other family programming, Imagination Playground. The latter features interactive building blocks that encourage creative play and design for children, and is a generous gift from Amalgamated Bank on Roosevelt Island.
For architecture and design lovers, we have three weekends packed with tours and workshops. Next Saturday, October 3, we are hosting an architectural photography workshop as part of Archtober, New York’s annual month-long architecture and design festival. We are also participating in Docomomo Tour Day, an event focused on exploring modernist architecture, on Saturday, October 10, and in Open House New York on Saturday and Sunday, October 17-18, with architectural tours and family workshops throughout the day on Sunday. You can learn more about these programs, and other news and events, at fdrfourfreedomspark.org.
We welcome your comments and suggestions as we work every day to make the Park a better place for you to visit, learn, relax, and enjoy. We are open 6 days a week (closed Tuesdays), with cooler-weather hours starting October 1 (9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.). We are very happy to be a part of the Roosevelt Island community. Come visit soon, and come back often!