Monday, October 29, 2007

NYC Politicians Support Louis Kahn Memorial- Can Roosevelt Island Residents Persuade them To Change Postition?

New York 1 reports on the press conference by NYC politicians supporting the Louis Kahn Memorial, disguised as a FDR memorial, at Southpoint Park, Roosevelt Island. Link to article and video of press conference is here. According to NY 1:

Lawmakers breathed new life into an old plan to build a memorial to Franklin Delano Roosevelt on the island that bears his name.
"Over 30 years have passed since Louis Kahn designed the memorial. Over 30 years have passed since the island was named for President Roosevelt in anticipation of this memorial,” said City Councilwoman Jessica Lappin. “And yet, unless you count the FDR drive, there is no memorial in this city or state to President Roosevelt."
Perhaps Ms. Lappin, you should follow the expressed wishes of FDR in regard to a monument to himself. According to the NY Times:
Would Roosevelt himself have agreed? According to W. Averell Harriman, who served Roosevelt as a special envoy and ambassador, the president told Justice Felix Frankfurter in 1941 that he wanted his monument to be a block of stone “about the size of this” — putting his hand on his desk — in front of the National Archives Building on Pennsylvania Avenue. When that memorial was dedicated in 1965, Mr. Harriman said: “It was characteristic of Franklin Roosevelt that he proposed so modest a commemoration. He did not care about monuments of stone.”
Will the elected officials including Council Member Lappin, City Council President Quinn, Assembly Member Kellner and Representative Maloney who announced their support of the Louis Kahn memorial change their position when confronted by the stated desire of President Roosevelt to have a memorial the size of his desk and not one as large as that designed by Louis Kahn?

What about the wishes of Roosevelt Island residents for a Southpoint Park that maintains the current clear, open and unobstructed site line views of the East River waterfront and the Manhattan/Queens skyline? Does that even matter? Apparently not if this plan for the Louis Kahn memorial is allowed to proceed. Perhaps it is more important for these elected officials to curry favor with a select group of architectural aficionados stuck in the 1970's ( see comment #20 to the NY Times article above) than those who live on Roosevelt Island and the stated wishes of President Roosevelt? I hope not.

It is abundantly clear that the Louis Kahn memorial will create a huge obstruction blocking the existing Southpoint Park waterfront and skyline views. For those who do not live on Roosevelt Island or who have not visited Southpoint Park recently, please picture this. It would be like a memorial placed in Brooklyn Bridge Park that blocks views of the Brooklyn Bridge, Manhattan Skyline and East River. Further, imagine rows of trees placed all around Central Park Lake or the Model Boat Pond blocking views of these magnificent sites from the adjacent paths and nearby benches. How about draining the Central Park Reservoir and putting a monument there? The runners on the Jogging Path will love that, won't they? Not likely to happen is it. Then why should Southpoint Park be treated any differently than Brooklyn Bridge Park or Central Park?

The You Tube video shows a portion of the East River and Manhattan Skyline view from Southpoint Park that will be blocked by the Louis Kahn memorial below.

Image is from Architectural Record.