On September 7 2011, Forum members trudged through mist and mud at the site of Franklin Delano Roosevelt Four Freedoms Park on the southern tip of Roosevelt Island. The park was the proposed capstone project for Welfare Island when rechristened “Roosevelt Island” by Mayor Lindsay in the 1970s. Lack of city funding and political will stalled the project for almost four decades, but the project will soon be completed through a recent effort by the Roosevelt Institute.

The park was one of the final designs of master American architect Louis I. Kahn and his only project in New York. An abstract temple to the late president, the park commemorates Roosevelt’s speech ensuring freedom of speech, freedom of worship, freedom from want, and freedom from fear. Upon entering the park, visitors are greeted with a monumental stairway flanked by two ramps. Atop the stair is a grassy slope, leading down towards Kahn’s “monumental room.”

Though much work remains to be done on the stairway and slope, Kahn’s “room” has recently been finished. 36-ton white limestone blocks surround the room, separated by thin reliefs that soften the monumental walls. Paul Goldberger explained that the gesture provides the illusion that the limestone floats in the river. Gina Pollara added that by aligning oneself with the reliefs, the depth of the stone vanishes, leaving a seemingly two-dimensional plane through which to see the Manhattan and Queens shorelines.

After its completion in late 2012, it will surely become a place of architectural and civic pilgrimage, a place to contemplate American liberty in the midst of the soaring skylines of New York and the ebb and flow of the East River.
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