Key Facts: The Park

What is Four Freedoms Park?

  • The Franklin D. Roosevelt Four Freedoms Park is the only memorial dedicated to the former President in his home state of New York. It is the last work of the late Louis Kahn, an iconic architect of the 20th century. The Park celebrates the Four Freedoms, as pronounced in President Roosevelt’s famous January 6, 1941 State of the Union speech.

What are the Four Freedoms and why are they important?

  • President Roosevelt advocated four essential human freedoms, “everywhere in the world,” as the basis of a new world sought after the tragedy and triumph of the Second World War.
  1. Freedom of Speech and Expression – the best defense against the corruption of democracy.
  2. Freedom of Worship – our shield against the forces of bigotry, intolerance and fanaticism.
  3. Freedom from Want – so that hunger, poverty and pestilence can be erased from the earth.
  4. Freedom from Fear – calling for international institutions and agreements that will keep the peace, control armaments, prevent aggression, accept the Rule of Law, and assure social justice.
  • After President Roosevelt’s death, Eleanor Roosevelt worked to ensure the Four Freedoms were incorporated into the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948.

Where is Four Freedoms Park and when is it open?

  • FDR Four Freedoms Park sits on a triangular four-acre plot on the southern tip of Roosevelt Island in the East River of New York City.
  • Four Freedoms Park is open to visitors 6 days a week, 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., closed on Tuesday.
  • The Park is accessible by New York subway (the F train), the aerial Tram at the Ed Koch Queensboro Bridge, Roosevelt Island bus, Queens bus, automobile and bicycle. Ferry and water taxi service are expected to be developed.
  • Fittingly, the Park overlooks the United Nations complex on Manhattan’s East Side. President Roosevelt coined the term “United Nations.” Planning for the U.N. began during his administration. Roosevelt is regarded as the architect of the United Nations.

What is Four Freedoms Park’s history?

  • Plans for the Park were originally announced in 1973 by New York Gov. Nelson Rockefeller and New York City Mayor John Lindsay. At that time, Welfare Island was renamed Roosevelt Island. Four acres of land at the southern end of the island were dedicated to a memorial to Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Former U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. and Founder of the Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt Institute, William vanden Heuvel, conceived the memorial initially as a project of the Roosevelt Institute.
  • In 1974, after completing the architectural design for the Park, architect Louis Kahn died unexpectedly, Gov. Rockefeller left New York to become Vice President of the United States and the City of New York teetered on the brink of bankruptcy. Consequently, the lack of financial resources and political leadership resulted in a long delay in the Park’s implementation. Ambassador vanden Heuvel kept the project alive throughout the ensuing three decades with successive state and city administrations.
  • In 2005, Ambassador vanden Heuvel renewed the effort to realize the memorial.  Nathaniel Kahn’s documentary about his father “My Architect” created renewed interest in Louis Kahn.
  • An exhibition, held at The Cooper Union, on Louis Kahn and his design for the memorial, attracted significant public attention. The founder of Alphawood Foundation Chicago jump-started the renewed effort to create the Park by offering seed money to fund a project office. Alphawood later pledged $10,000,000 to build the Park. Since then, Ambassador vanden Heuvel has led the effort that has raised more than $54 million from private and public sources to build the memorial.
  • The Park is funded, operated and maintained by the Four Freedoms Park Conservancy, formed in 2011, in partnership with the New York State Parks Department. The Conservancy’s Board members are William J. vanden Heuvel, Founder & Chair Emeritus; Mrs. Franklin D. Roosevelt, Jr., Honorary Chair; Barbara Shattuck Kohn, Chair; Sally Minard, President; William R. Griffith, Secretary & Treasurer; John S. Dyson; David Handler; Donald B. Hilliker; Warren Hoge; Jessica S. Lappin; Gina Pollara; James S. Polshek; Jack Rosenthal; Katrina vanden Heuvel; William Whitaker, Ex-Officio.
  • Construction of the Park, following Louis Kahn’s original design, began March 29, 2010, and was completed on budget and on schedule in September 2012.
  • The dedication ceremony was held on October 17, 2012, with President William J. Clinton, Governor Andrew Cuomo, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Ambassador vanden Heuvel participating. At the ceremony FDR Four Freedoms Park was officially designated a New York State park by Governor Cuomo. The Park opened to the public on October 24, 2012.

What is Four Freedoms Park’s artistic value?

  • The memorial Park is the last work of the iconic American architect Louis I. Kahn to be built, and is the only Kahn design in New York City. It appears as a sculpture in the landscape.
  • The focal point of the Park is a 1,050-pound bronze bust of President Roosevelt, an enlargement of a sculpture originally created in 1933 by Jo Davidson, one of the most prominent American sculptors of the 20th century. Davidson sculpted a life-size clay, working with FDR in the Oval Office at the White House.
  • Mounted in the sculpture niche, with the Four Freedoms engraved on its south-facing side, the bust stands sentinel at the entrance of what Kahn called the “Room”, a 60’ square open plaza of granite that looks out across the East River to the United Nations.
  • The entrance to the Park is marked by five Copper Beech trees and the Park’s lawn is flanked on either side by 120 Littleleaf linden trees set in allées.

What is Four Freedoms Park’s educational value?

  • Park visitors have free access to, an interactive digital history project accessible via wireless on any Internet-enabled device. 
  • The fdr4freedoms digital resource provides a multi-media narrative, using video, audio and still photos, organized around the theme of the Four Freedoms and the Roosevelt legacy.
  • The digitized education initiative was designed with support from the National Endowment for the Humanities and in consultation with historians and FDR scholars to provide a comprehensive history of the Roosevelt era. Through the resource, people of all ages engage with the profound significance of his leadership then and the relevance of Roosevelt’s vision and policies today.
  • The Scholarly Advisory Board involved in the history project is made up of prominent members of the academic community.

What is the Park’s civic value?

  • FDR Four Freedoms Park anchors a new 12.5-acre waterfront public space with spectacular views of the New York City skyline.  Four Freedoms Park itself offers a place of personal contemplation and reflection as well as an extraordinary new civic space for public programs and ceremonies.
  • The latest in a series of new public waterfront spaces in all five boroughs of the city, the Park is an enduring and stunningly beautiful remembrance of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, regarded generally by historians as the greatest President of the 20th century. Franklin Roosevelt was the last New Yorker to be elected President of the United States.
  • Through the latest in digital technology, the Park offers an opportunity to teach the history of America in the Roosevelt era, from the Great Depression through World War II to new generations of Americans and citizens of the world.