Four Freedoms

On a blustery morning, Justin Ferrate led the intrepid over the East River on the tram to Roosevelt’s Island.  In the New York tradition, explained Justin, to change a reputation, merely change the name.  Blackwell’s Island, home of Elizabeth Blackwell, New York’s first woman surgeon, was renamed Roosevelt’s Island.  Why?

Well, maybe the island that served as the pumping ground for New York City, with its prison and dilapidated hospitals for the poor, might have something to do with it.

But now Governor’s Island also has Louis Kahn’s long awaited memorial to Franklin D. Roosevelt and his Four Freedoms speech, made as part of his State of the Union address in January, 1941.  The vision of the worldwide freedoms–or speech, religion, from want, and from fear–were then popularized by Norman Rockwell.  These words and images helped bring Americans out of isolationism and toward participation in World War II.

The paFour Freedoms, FDR monument 4rk of the monument is austere, perhaps in keeping with much of the Brutalist architecture so in favor when Roosevelt’s Island was turned residential.

Stark but still beautiful, I’d say.



Cherry Blossoms



The Cherry Blossom Festival was held today, too, and despite the ongoing cold, those blossoms were trying really hard.



The great irony was that all day, Japanese were celebrating traditional culture as part of the festival, with events located at the FDR memorial.  This picture of a Japanese family walking along the side of the memorial seems elegiac to me.

Four Freedoms, FDR monument 1









Small Pox Hospital ruins 2

The monument is located right next to the really spooky ruins of a small pox hospital. It was made from stone quarried on the island and meant to represent muscularity and stability.  As you can see, it’s very, very Gothic.

The remains are being shored up, so that people can actually visit the site.  Would you?  Yikes!  Maybe only on Halloween…with lots of good friends around!



UN complex


On a brighter note, the monument is located just across from the United Nations complex in Manhattan, which, of course, has its roots back in FDR’s policies.


Bridge, trolley station, tram lines 2



The Queensboro Bridge is viewable from everywhere on the island, making for some incredible sights.  Check out the slide show below.  I really liked the historic trolley station.  It’s made of terracotta–practical because it’s easy to clean with a power wash–and stations were moved to either side of the bridge.  Look at all the interesting architectural juxtapositions here.




And the Roosevelt Island slide show:


Ride the tram with your metrocard.  Then walk around the island to the lighthouse on the northern tip and the FDR Memorial on the southern tip.  it’s a great day!