Friday, November 2, 2007

My Two Cents on the FDR / Kahn Memorial

status - fdr with fala - v2 - picture only

The title alone of this post should give you a clue as to part of my feelings about the planned FDR memorial on which our elected officials formally joined forces to promote and support. Don’t let the blog post title fool you I am not fully against a memorial to FDR nor wholly this memorial. What I am fully against is what this is becoming … a hyphenated memorial to Louis Kahn in addition to FDR.

My primary concerns regarding the design of this memorial are (1) the potential loss of the natural 360 degree views afforded by the current space, (2) the loss of the natural green space itself, and (3) my concern that the space will no longer be allowed to play host to events like the summer time outdoor movies series and projects on the scale of "The Encampment". Certainly The Encampment would not have had the same sense of a pitched campground sitting between granite walls inscribed with FDR’s Four Freedoms speech.

Having a memorial would be acceptable if it does not impinge on the access the island population enjoys. It would be one thing if the memorial was built either before the resident population grew to its current level or before the original WIRE buildings were completed but now the voices of the island’s residents should be given weight over the Kahn fanatics and the memory of a former President especially since there are other memorials to FDR here in NYC and elsewhere.

If a memorial must be built why must it be so grand in scope so as to physically alter the natural beauty of the space it would take over. Granted Teddy Roosevelt was the greater conservationist but perhaps we could learn from the memorials built in his honor on the Roosevelt Island named after him and built the memorial to fit the island rather than changing the island to accommodate the memorial anymore than it has been to date. Let’s erect a statue to FDR similar to those of him at the National FDR Memorial to him in Washington DC. Considering the proximity of Southpoint to Goldwater it would be fitting to erect a statue of FDR in his wheelchair, uncovered, to exemplify the accomplishments of the man despite his handicap.

statue - fdr in wheelchair - v2 - at 80p

I have read that building a park / memorial would be a step to ensure condos could never be built on the space. I can not speak to the concern that Southpoint would become condos but I do have great fears that after Southtown is complete the developers will start pushing for Goldwater’s demise so the idea of building a memorial at Southpoint is not an anethma to me if it can curtail sprawl on at least that land.

As for the current design it seems to me that it was designed by a man intending it for another time and perhaps it is no longer right for this place and this time. If it must be this memorial I pray the plan can be altered to remove the Linden trees and plant at most waist high shrubs keeping the feel of the upper space open. The plan for granite walls with FDR’s Four Freedoms speech seems to heavy and overdrawn to me but the site has already been molded for that purpose and to support the upper space with a retaining wall would not further restrict the views afforded anymore than the paths on either side of the bluff do now.

I am not sure what public or quasi public authority will be in charge of maintaining the memorial park and its uses but if an agreement could be reached ensuring resident access and use of the space for events that focus on providing benefits to the residenbt population of the Island it would go a long way to bringing me into a pro – memorial position. Reading of design buffs who are pushing the park to ensure Kahn’s legacy is kept alive does anything but make me want to support the memorial.

While I know City Council Member Lappin has been a supporter of the larger park planned for Southpoint it appears to me that her pushing for this memorial and for this design is out of step with her Roosevelt Island constituency. The same could be said for her fellow politicians supporting this design.

1 comment:

  1. I'm a bit confused at your comments. On one hand, you complain about the "sprawl" moving Southwards, but you enjoy the toddler playground and the Duane Reade opened up in Riverwalk. Do you really think that new development in Southpoint (not that there is even a sign of it yet) would be that absolutely bad? Let's face it - Coler-Goldwater is a sprawl, underutilized, and can really be condensed into a newer, more modern, larger facility, freeing up land which can be used to 1. host more retail space, bringing services to the island; 2. possibly open the way to a second subway station on the island (to the E/V line); 3. bring valuable tax revenue to the island as well

    And as for Southpoint Park itself, realistically, I think it's open less often than it is closed. I wouldn't mind if the money were spent taking down the massive expanse of chain-link fencing, and instead, making it into a modern facility that more people can enjoy. Have you thought about how the disabled people on wheelchairs really can't go there because of the rocky/crumbly terrain on it? Wouldn't it be nice to see the Smallpox Hospital restored so that we can actually see it closer up, and the graffiti of the ghosts on it removed?

    Not trying to be combative, but I think it's a little weak to complain about "Kahn fanatics" and instead you might be better served thinking about how the space is of limited use right now (beautiful and undeveloped as it is, I agree, but it is too rarely open for people to visit); and that it will help bring some visibility to the island. And maybe make fewer people think of this place as solely a set for horror movies.