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Jane's Walk - Four Freedoms Park, Roosevelt Island and the New Urban Agenda

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About this Walk (RSVP required)

In 1969, there was an exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York called: THE ISLAND THAT NOBODY KNOWS. It presented the Johnson/Burgee Master Plan for Roosevelt Island for the first time. After a century of being the home of several hospitals, a lunatic asylum and a prison, Welfare Island renamed Roosevelt Island would now become a New Town In Town, built under the auspices of the newly created New York State Urban Development Corporation (UDC). Nelson Rockefeller was Governor and John Lindsay was Mayor. Rockefeller brought Edward J. Logue, who had headed the redevelopment of New Haven and Boston to head the UDC. The island was leased for 99 years. The concept for this New Town was to create a residential community with 50% low-income residents, a unique mini-school system, a car-free island with the entire waterfront and its many parks to open to the public. The plan was to restore the landmark structures and employ a pneumatic garbage collection system for the entire island. A subway connection to the center of this two mile long and 800 foot wide island was anticipated to be ready for the new residents by 1976. Because it was then delayed during the construction of the first two thousand units of housing (called Northtown), UDC constructed the aerial tramway, which has because a beloved feature of Roosevelt Island. In 1973, at the southern tip of the island, directly across from the United Nations complex, it was decided to build a memorial to Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Louis I. Kahn, one of the most important architects of the 20th Century was hired to design this memorial.

In 1973, all funds for affordable housing were frozen by President Nixon, which greatly affected the future of UDC. In 1975, as Roosevelt Island was beginning to see a new thriving community emerge on the island, UDC and New York were in a severe financial crisis. UDC’s leadership changed and Roosevelt Island’s plans had to adapt. Roosevelt Island still has a mixture of low, middle and market rate housing, but the percentages have changed. The community is thriving and will always be an island separated by water, yet within the great city of New York.

Roosevelt Island in the last decade now has the completed Four Freedoms Park, which attracts visitors from everywhere in the world. The Island’s newest arrival, which brings great change and enormous energy to Roosevelt Island, is the new Cornell Tech University, which will be a graduate school of applied science, a place of innovation. THE ISLAND THAT NOBODY KNOWS now a dynamic future and we await the next museum exhibition to show Roosevelt Island’s achievements: A SUCCESSFUL RESIDENTIAL COMMUNITY WITHIN AN ISLAND OF INNOVATION.


We will meet at the Roosevelt Island Tramway station on the Island. Those coming on the subway, the tramway station is a short distance to the south. We will use the free bus to go as far north as the Octagon complex, then look at the different housing along Main Street and will end up at Four Freedoms Park at the southern tip of the island.

For guests requiring any additional assistance, please email

About Tour Leader, Theodore Liebman, FAIA

Theodore Liebman, FAIA, is a Principal at Perkins Eastman and a leading expert in the planning and design of large-scale urban housing and mixed-use projects. Over the past 50 years, Mr. Liebman has focused on issues of housing, lifestyle, and culture in the urban environment. From 1971 and 1975, Mr. Liebman was Chief of Architecture at the New York State Urban Development Corporation where he oversaw the building of housing for 33,000 families statewide and Chief of Architecture for Roosevelt Island from 1973-75. From 1975-77, he was with the Harvard Institute for International Development working in Tehran, Iran. From 1985-2007, he was a founding principal of The Liebman Melting Partnership (TLMP), focusing on affordable housing and neighborhood development. He is a past president of the NY Chapter of the AIA and in 1988, the recipient of the Andrew J. Thomas Pioneer in Housing Award. In 2005, he received the Ratensky Lecture, which honors individuals who have made significant lifetime contributions to the advancement of housing and community design. He received a B.Arch.from Pratt Institute, a M.Arch. from Harvard University GSD and the Rome Prize Fellowship in Architecture. In 1970-71, he was awarded the Wheelwright Travelling Fellowship in Architecture from Harvard. He is an adjunct professor @ NYU’s Department of Art History and Urban Design and Architecture Studies and teaches a course on Affordable Housing. He has lectured extensively and served on architectural juries at many universities in the United States, Europe, Asia, Africa and South America. He is a board member of the Consortium for Sustainable Urbanization (CSU).

About Consortium for Sustainable Urbanization (CSU)

The Consortium for Sustainable Urbanization is a New York based, non-for-profit organization 501(c)(3) formed to promote better understanding of the role of sustainable urbanization and resilient design in the planning of our cities with a new found optimism about the urban future.  Our purpose is to advocate for responsible and enlightened planning and design. We believe that a cross-sectoral approach can reduce the negative impact of mass migration to cities and improve the quality of life for all. We are committed to make urbanization sustainable. We connect the global thought leaders concerned with urbanization in order to exchange ideas in high-level meetings and public forums. We disseminate information on-line, in print and in conferences. Our focus is on replicable ideas and concepts, best practices and speculative proposals.

About Organizing Partner: The Secretariat of the United Nations Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development

The United Nations Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development (Habitat III) was held in Quito, Ecuador, in October 2016. The focus of the Conference was to reinvigorate the global commitment to sustainable urbanization and on the adoption and implementation of a New Urban Agenda, which was negotiated by U.N. Member States, with inputs from experts, local governments, civil society, and stakeholders throughout a two-year preparatory process. The New Urban Agenda recognizes that urbanization, if well-planned and well-managed, can be a powerful tool for sustainable development and addressing social issues. It envisions a paradigm shift in the way we plan, build, and manage cities, highlighting tested practices and principles for the creation of sustainable urban spaces that offer equal opportunities for all inhabitants. It is hinged on the vision of cities’ potential and capacity to be catalysts for inclusion and equitable economic growth, to help protect the environment and limit climate change, and ultimately to be massive agents of positive change. In line with the Sustainable Development Goals, the Paris Agreement, and other frameworks, the New Urban Agenda is an internationally agreed resource that any city government, community group, or individual citizen can use to inform policies or approaches to improving and creating sustainable and equitable urban spaces.

Jane's Walk

Jane’s Walks are free, locally organized walking tours, in which people get together to explore, talk about and celebrate their neighbourhoods. Where more traditional tours are a bit like walking lectures, a Jane’s Walk is more of a walking conversation. Leaders share their knowledge, but also encourage discussion and participation among the walkers.

Earlier Event: May 6
I Love My Park Day