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Decades late, FDR memorial park is opening in NYC

Associated Press Published: October 17, 2012

NEW YORK (AP) — It's been nearly 40 years since New York City started planning a memorial to President Franklin Roosevelt on an island in the East River. Welfare Island was renamed Roosevelt Island, and American architect Louis Kahn was commissioned to design a park honoring the 32nd president.

The memorial park was never realized — until now.

The Franklin D. Roosevelt Four Freedoms Park, on the southern tip of 2-mile-long Roosevelt Island between the boroughs of Manhattan and Queens, is being dedicated Wednesday in a ceremony to be attended by dignitaries including former President Bill Clinton and Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

The park is named after Roosevelt's Jan. 6, 1941, State of the Union address, known as the Four Freedoms Speech. Given before America got involved in World War II, Roosevelt said the way to justify the enormous sacrifice of war was to create a world centered on four essential human freedoms: freedom of speech and expression; freedom of worship; freedom from want; and freedom from fear. The words were later incorporated into the charter of the United Nations, which Roosevelt helped create.

The park consists of a 4-acre triangular expanse of green, flanked by 120 littleleaf Linden trees leading to a colossal bronze bust of Roosevelt at the threshold of a square white-granite open-air plaza.

The statue is an enlargement of a 28-inch bust of Roosevelt, also a New York governor, created by American portrait sculptor Jo Davidson. It sits in a stone niche on the back of which a passage from the Four Freedoms speech is carved. The statue sits a mere 300 yards across the river from the United Nations headquarters.

"We hope visitors of different ages will understand that the four freedoms are the core values of democracy and that each generation has to be sure to protect them," said former U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. William vanden Heuvel, chairman of the Franklin D. Roosevelt Four Freedoms Park LLC.

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