NEW YORK--(Franklin D. Roosevelt Four Freedoms Park, a memorial that serves as an enduring tribute to the life and work of President Roosevelt, was dedicated today in an historic ceremony on Roosevelt Island in New York after nearly 40 years in the making.)--
“FDR Four Freedoms Park is a monument to a great leader and our democratic ideals”
President Bill Clinton, New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo, and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg spoke during the dedication. The program, hosted by Tom Brokaw, famed journalist and World War II historian, also included the West Point Band, renowned elementary school chorus PS 22, and Tony Award-winning actress Audra McDonald who joined guests at the dedication ceremony.
“President Roosevelt was one of this nation's most fearless and visionary leaders, and this Park is a tribute to his legacy,” said President Clinton. “President Roosevelt’s words continue to inspire and provide concrete benefits to millions of Americans. I am proud to honor this president and his ideas, which have done so much for our nation and our world.”
President Roosevelt, widely regarded as the greatest President of the 20th century, guided the country through the Great Depression and World War II. The FDR Four Freedoms Park, designed in 1973 by iconic architect Louis I. Kahn, celebrates the four essential freedoms that expressed President Roosevelt’s vision for a better world, a world committed to democracy that would help justify the sacrifices of World War II. He outlined them in his famous 1941 State of the Union address delivered 11 months before the attack on Pearl Harbor and America’s entry into the war: freedom of speech and expression, freedom of worship, freedom from want, and freedom from fear.
"With the opening of the Franklin D. Roosevelt Four Freedoms Park this fall, New Yorkers and visitors from around the world will have a memorial to recognize a great leader and native New Yorker who led our nation out of the Great Depression and steered America to victory in World War II," Governor Cuomo said. "Four Freedoms Park will give the park system another location for visitors to enjoy the outdoors, while paying tribute to President Roosevelt who personified New York's great tradition of progressive government. I encourage New Yorkers to visit Four Freedoms Park and learn about the remarkable life, work, and vision of President Roosevelt, from his time as governor leading the Empire State to his steady hand guiding our nation as president."
FDR Four Freedoms Park is located at the southern tip of Roosevelt Island and directly faces the United Nations – of which President Roosevelt is considered the Founder. It will be the first memorial dedicated to President Roosevelt in his home state of New York.
“FDR Four Freedoms Park is a monument to a great leader and our democratic ideals,” said Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg. “It’s also the latest addition to a growing number of parks along New York City’s revitalized waterfront. We look forward to New Yorkers and visitors enjoying the Park’s beauty and celebrating the legacy of President Roosevelt.”
The Park’s design follows Louis Kahn’s original plans. However, Kahn’s untimely death in 1974, coupled with New York City’s financial difficulties delayed the construction until a group of citizens organized in 2005 to renew the project.
“The completion of the Park is the realization of a dream for the many people who have worked so hard over the years to bring this historical landmark into existence,” said Ambassador William J. vanden Heuvel, Chairman of the project. “We are thrilled this great project has come to fruition and there will be an enduring memorial to President Roosevelt and the Four Freedoms here in New York.”
The lead private sector donor was Alphawood Foundation of Chicago and its founder, Fred Eychaner. Additional funding was provided by New York State and New York City, which agreed to be equal partners in the 1973 agreements to build the Memorial. The total cost of the project approximates $53 million, 70 percent of which is private sector gifts.
A major feature of the Park is a large “Room” that overlooks the East River and the United Nations complex. An integral part of Kahn’s design, the Room is enclosed by granite blocks weighing 36 tons each set one inch apart, allowing visitors to view the city and river beyond its walls.
The focal point of the Park is a 1,000-pound portrait bronze of President Roosevelt, originally created in 1933 by prominent American sculptor Jo Davidson. The bronze is mounted at the entrance to the Room. On the north-facing wall behind it, President Roosevelt’s Four Freedoms are inscribed in the granite by acclaimed stone-carver Nicholas Benson.
Along with the granite Room and sculpture, the Park also features five copper beech trees at its entrance, 120 little-leaf linden trees in allées flanking its lawn, and spectacular views of the Manhattan skyline.
Visitors also can learn about the history of the United States during the Roosevelt era by accessing the Park’s exciting and innovative digital resource, available online and on mobile devices: http://fdr4freedoms.org. The digital resource provides information about Roosevelt from his time as Governor to his death through a mix of images, narration written by historians, and archival film and audio clips. It is available on site at the Park via a WiFi network. This pioneering digital effort in public education was made possible by the Stavros Niarchos Foundation.
With its official opening, governance of the Park will transition to the newly formed Four Freedoms Park Conservancy. Architect Gina Pollara, who served as Executive Director of the Park during its construction, will become Executive Director of the Conservancy. Sally Minard, President during construction, will serve as President of the Conservancy. The Park will open to the public when arrangements for its operation and maintenance are final. For more information on FDR Four Freedoms Park, please visit: www.fdrfourfreedomspark.org.