New Developments on Roosevelt Island

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A Memorial to FDR

Roosevelt Island, the thin sliver of land lying along the East River, nestled between Manhattan and Queens, has big plans in sight. On October 24, Four Freedoms Park, a memorial honoring Franklin Delano Roosevelt, was unveiled to the public. The four-acre park, located at the southern tip of the island, honors the 32nd U.S. president and his Four Freedoms speech. The speech, delivered in 1941, calls for four human freedoms: freedom of speech and expression, freedom of worship, freedom from want, and freedom from fear. Visionary architect Louis Kahn conceived the memorial four decades ago. Despite numerous other development proposals for the island, Kahn’s plans survived and were realized.

Michael Kimmelman, a columnist for the NY Times, provides a poetic homage to the park. “It gives New York nothing less than a new spiritual heart. That’s to say it creates an exalted, austere public space, at once like the prow of a ship and a retreat for meditation.”

Monumental Stair and lawn

Sculpture of FDR

The memorial welcomes visitors with a grand, 100-foot-wide staircase pointing toward the tip of the island. Above the staircase, a lawn unrolls like a carpet, flanked on both sides by littleleaf linden trees. At the heart of the memorial is an open granite enclosure, what Kahn calls a “room,” with a Bronze statue of Roosevelt’s bust resting inside a stone niche. The Four Freedoms speech is carved on the back of the niche.

The United Nation’s headquarters lies a mere 300-yards away, which is fitting, considering that Roosevelt helped form the United Nations and that the UN charter incorporates the words of the Four Freedoms Speech.

See the Four Freedoms Park website for more information about the memorial and for directions on how to visit.

In conjunction with the opening of the memorial, the Center for Architecture is holding an exhibition on the project till December 1, 2012.


A Future Cornell Tech Campus


A rendering of the planned campus from air. 

Adding to the spectacle of the memorial, the Cornell University graduate school for technology has plans to open a 12.5-acre campus along the southern end of Roosevelt Island. The master plan for the new tech center, designed by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, calls for an energy-efficient academic neighborhood, composed of zero-emissions buildings with rooftops covered in solar panels.

The Cornell NYC Tech campus is being developed in partnership with the Technion- Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa, although Cornell will be responsible for construction. Cornell has already unveiled its plans to the public, marking the start of the seven-month Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP), which begins with public comment and review. The university hopes to break ground in 2014. The full development is expected to occur over two phases; the first phase is projected to be completed in 2017 and the second phase in 2037.

To learn more about the Cornell NYC Tech campus, see the New York Observer, the New Yorker, and New York Magazine.