The completion of the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Four Freedoms Park was celebrated on Wednesday on the southern tip of Roosevelt Island, an 800-ft-wide sliver of land in the middle of the East River, beneath the Ed Koch Queensboro Bridge. The park, named for the president who led the country through the most trying times of the Great Depression and World War II, has been decades in the making and was designed by the esteemed architect Louis Kahn, who completed the plans the year he died, in 1974. Construction began on March 29, 2010, 38 years after it was announced. It opens to the public on Oct. 24.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg was joined by Governor Andrew Cuomo and President Bill Clinton, among other dignitaries, at the Four Freedoms Park dedication.
“Today, we dedicate this park to New York’s single greatest contribution to the preservation of our republic, and the peace of our world, Franklin Delano Roosevelt,” said Bloomberg of the three-term president who hailed from Hyde Park, New York. “It will stand forever as a monument to the man who brought us through the Great Depression and brought us victory over great evil.”
The mayor also thanked Ambassador William J. vanden Heuvel, CEO of the Four Freedoms Park LLC and the chairman of the Four Freedoms Park Conservancy board of directors, who also serves as Chairman of Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt Institute in New York.
Richard Heffner, host of The Open Mind, speaks with Ambassador William J. vanden Heuvel about the memorial park and shows a tribute to Franklin D. Roosevelt and the Four Freedoms Park narrated by the great actor Orson Welles, who died in 1985. Video courtesy of The Open Mind.
In the late 60s, New York City Mayor John Lindsay proposed to reinvent Roosevelt Island (then called Welfare Island) into a residential community. Today the island is still primarily residential, but with the opening of Four Freedoms and the Cornell NYC Tech campus in 2017, it will increasingly be a destination for visitors. The park is named after the four freedoms Roosevelt touted during a speech of the same name given on January 6, 1941: freedom of speech and expression, freedom of worship, freedom from want and freedom from fear.
President Franklin Delano Roosevelt addresses a joint session of Congress in his “Four Freedoms” speech on Jan. 6, 1941, shortly after his unprecedented third term began. Video courtesy of Classic News Clips.