Text and photographs are © by Ellen Spector Platt & Ellen Zachos, all rights reserved.

Sunday, June 2, 2013


Take the tram at 59th & 2nd. Ave for an astounding ride over the East River to Roosevelt Island, then a 25 cent bus ride or a 3/4 mile walk to the new park at the southern tip of the Island. The 59th St. bridge parallels the tramway.
 Designed by famed architect Louis I. Kahn in 1973 to honor FDR and never built, it was finally constructed starting in 2010 and opened as a NY State Historical park last fall. At the time of planning Nelson Rockefeller was Governor, John Lindsey was Mayor, this plot of land was called Welfare Island, and NYC was heading for bankruptcy.
As you approach the park, you pass the ruin of a small pox hospital which may be preserved as a visitor center.
A park ranger explained that Kahn not only designed the space but chose the trees, copper beeches against the facade of the hospital, and two allees of lindens flanking a simple lawn.
 As you enter the park, the vista is toward the narrow island tip, the apex of a triangle, pointing to a grand bust of F.D.R. and thence to the Atlantic Ocean and Europe, which Roosevelt helped to save during WWII.
 To the right is the general assembly of the UN that the President helped to form. On the back of the monument is inscribed part of the Four Freedoms speech from 1939.
 The park is simple and direct, wholly satisfying. What Kahn obviously knew and I didn't realize is that because of the vanishing perspective, when you turn around to walk back to the entrance, the lawn seems no longer triangular but rectangular, an optical illusion. I didn't even see it until I came home and looked at my images.
Though I'm no longer a fan of perfect lawns, this park was designed 40 years ago when such lawns were the ideal, so I'm more forgiving.
On Memorial Day 2013, Vietnam Vet Ben Platt joined U.S. Rep. Carolyn Maloney right, and Singer/Composer Carole King in laying a wreath at the monument. Amazingly, the wreath was formed of all fresh, undyed flowers and foliage, so I didn't have to run up and start discarding offending materials.
The park is free and open to the public  from 9am to 7pm 6 days a week, closed Tues. Learn more.

1 comment:

BFF Nana said...

Definitely worth a trip the next time we are in NYC. Thanks for the great photos and wonderful commentary.

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