Nearly 40 years after famed architect Louis Kahn designed it in 1972, the Franklin D. Roosevelt Four Freedoms Park has begun to take shape as the first granite blocks were lifted and lowered into place on the site on Monday. The city and state’s top politicians, including Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, Governor David Paterson, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, and Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, were all on hand to mark the long-delayed moment.
City Councilwoman Jessica Lappin, who worked hard to get city funding for this $45 million project in her district, was especially pleased with the park’s progress. “It’s not every day in New York City that we reclaim waterfront land and give it back to the public,” she said. Four Freedoms Park will be administered as a state park, though it is funded by a public-private partnership between the city, the state, and the Roosvelt Institute, which has been leading the charge for the new park for years.
Located at the southern tip of Roosevelt Island, it will be the only work of Kahn’s in New York City. Mitchell | Giurgola Architects, the associate architects executing Kahn’s plans, have been exacting in their approach to the memorial, ensuring it looks just as Kahn envisioned it—with only a few minor alerations to account for new code requirements. The project is due for completion in 2012.
A modest crowd gathered at the site of the future park to celebrate the placement of the first of the granite columns that will make up the Room, a 72-foot square that Kahn designed to be a contemplative setting where visitors will be able to take in the words of the former president that will be engraved in the surrounding granite. Each 36-ton block, quarried in Mount Airy, North Carolina, measures 6 feet by 6 feet by 12 feet.
Named after FDR’s famous 1941 speech, the 4-acre park will be the first memorial to the former New York governor in his home state. Construction is expected to create 200 jobs.
“Four Freedoms Park will be a civic place of universal significance and provide a permanent reminder of President Roosevelt’s vision for a better, more peaceful world,” said William vanden Heuvel, chairman emeritus of the Roosevelt Institute and a longtime advocate of the memorial. He also noted the importance of urban green spaces, adding that the park “will preserve, in perpetuity, one of most majestic open waterfront spaces remaining in New York City.”
Mayor Bloomberg spoke movingly about this small but special patch of green. “We have added hundreds of acres of new parkland to New York City in the last nine years, but Four Freedoms Park, in the shadow of the United Nations Secretariat building, has a special significance,” Bloomberg said. “I think this is more than just a park. I really do think that this is to remind us of somebody, who at a pivotal point in our history, rallied the country.”