Franklin D. Roosevelt Four Freedoms Park, on the southern tip of Roosevelt Island, was New York City’s long-awaited memorial to United States President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. As far back as the early 1970s, New Yorkers began to voice their opinions on the need for a memorial to New York’s most well-known American president. Plans were developed and an architect was chosen, but the final park took decades to bring to fruition.
Finally, on October 24th, 2012, the FDR Four Freedoms Park was opened to the public. Yesterday marked the 6th anniversary of the park’s opening! Untapped Cities Insiders were recently treated to a tour of the park, led by Stephen Martin, the former Director of Design & Planning at Four Freedoms Park, in an experience produced in partnership with the Four Freedoms Park Conservancy. Keep reading to discover some of the secrets from the long creation process and the park itself today.
10. Four Freedoms Park is Louis Kahn’s only design in NYC
The idea for a memorial to Franklin D. Roosevelt was first brought up in 1970, when input from residents of New York City highlighted a desire for a monument to the most well-known native New Yorker president. It was simultaneously proposed that the island in the middle of the East River – then called “Welfare Island” – be renamed in Roosevelt’s honor. The city commissioned architect Louis Kahn for the memorial, and in 1973 he began drawing up the plans for Four Freedoms Park. The park is Kahn’s only design in New York City, and it was the architect’s last major work before his death in 1974. Kahn died of a heart attack in Penn Station, with a final rendering of his completed design for Four Freedoms Park in his briefcase.
Alongside the death of the park’s lead architect came an economic crisis, hitting New York in the mid-‘70s. The southern tip of Roosevelt Island thus sat empty, in a state of complete neglect, for decades until the idea of the park was revived in the early 2000s. Construction of the park finally began in 2010, and it was officially opened to the public on October 24, 2012.