Feeding at the Public Trough - State and City Funds Sought for the Memorial to Louis Kahn at Roosevelt Island's Southpoint Park
The publicist for the proposed Louis Kahn/FDR memorial at Roosevelt Island's Southpoint Park has been very busy with a stream of recent newspaper articles published. This time, the article is from the Associated Press which was picked up and reprinted by the Daily News, NY Times, MSNBC and ABC News and linked to by Curbed among others. According to the article:
Famed architect Louis I. Kahn drafted a design, but a city fiscal crisis delayed the project.Councilmember Jessica Lappin offers a false and misleading justification for this memorial designed to scare Roosevelt Island residents to believe that the only other alternative to the Kahn memorial is a luxury condominium development instead of a waterfront park without the Kahn memorial at Southpoint. According to Lappin:
When Kahn died of a heart attack in a men's room in Penn Station a year later, drawings of the memorial in his pocket helped police identify the body.
Money problems, political inertia and faded public interest kept Kahn's plan on the shelf until it was recently dusted off as the centerpiece of a new effort to honor the former president.
The design features a sloping lawn and V-shaped promenades leading to an open space with granite walls, framing views to the south and west of the river and Manhattan towers, including the U.N. complex. It would border a 10-acre park, being developed separately.
"It's now or never," says City Councilwoman Jessica Lappin, the FDR project's leading advocate, noting that once construction begins on the park next year, plans for the memorial could be imperiled.
''If the FDR memorial doesn't happen, there's no other plan for those three acres. People could put up luxury condos. It's up for grabs, and that makes me nervous.''Councilmember Lappin knows this to be untrue. There is a plan for Southpoint Park developed by the Trust for the Public Land (TPL) called Wild Gardens/Green Room. Here is a link to that plan which won the support of the Roosevelt Island community. The projected cost for TPL's entire 10 acre plan for Southpoint Park without the inclusion of the Louis Kahn memorial is estimated at $30-40 million. In contrast to the price tag for the TPL plan, the cost for the purported Louis Kahn memorial to FDR is estimated at $40 million for only three of Southpoint Park's 10 acres. In the past supporters of the Louis Kahn memorial claimed that they would raise these funds through private supporters. After 35 years of failure they are now turning to the public for taxpayer funds to finance this project according to their fundraiser as reported in the AP article:
Gina Pollara, who manages the institute's fundraising effort, said she expected an infusion of more money soon. ''We hope this will include contributions from the city and the state, as they promised when this project began 35 years ago,'' she said.In this time of City and State funding and service cutbacks, the Louis Kahn memorial should not be allowed to feed at the public trough.
The AP article does report that there is community opposition to the Louis Kahn memorial:
Comments on a community Web site tilted toward the negative, with critics saying it was too isolated; did not reflect FDR's legacy of social reform; would ruin a goose nesting ground; or was too expensive.In fact, opposition to the Louis Kahn memorial is based upon the indisputable fact that one-of-a-kind, awesome and beautiful, panoramic views of the East River waterfront and Brooklyn/Queens/Manhattan skyline views that are currently available from any spot at the tip of Southpoint Park will be blocked and lost forever by the construction and placement of the proposed Louis Kahn/FDR memorial.
Dick Lutz, managing editor of The Main Street WIRE, the island's community newspaper, said that while some people support the plan as a way to block real estate developers, resistance stems from residents' desire for more green space, and a view that the project is "more a memorial to its architect than to FDR."
Why is that? Take a look again at these panoramic images here, here and here or the You Tube video above taken from Southpoint Park that will be blocked by the Kahn memorial. There is a huge difference between the open panoramic views that currently exist at Southpoint Park or those contemplated in TPL's Wild Garden/Green Room plan and that envisioned by the Louis Kahn design with:
V-shaped promenades leading to an open space with granite walls, framing views to the south and west of the river and Manhattan towers, including the U.N. complexThe framing of the views destroys the panoramic beauty that currently exists.
There is much more to be said on this subject. Here is a link to earlier posts on the proposed Louis Kahn/FDR memorial. A brief excerpt from one of the posts follows.
Roosevelt Island Resident's Association President Mathew Katz sent the following letter to the NY Times in opposition to their recent editorial in support of the Louis Kahn/FDR memorial proposed for Southpoint Park, Roosevelt Island.Here is a modest proposal as a possible solution from an earlier post.
“A Roosevelt for Roosevelt Island?” Absolutely! Just not this three acre anachronism that was repudiated in a public survey taken in October 2004 by Southpoint Park designer, The Trust for Public Land. For seven years we Islanders have been a part of the planning for this thirteen-acre park and there is consensus that it should include an FDR Memorial. But we endorsed a “Wild Gardens/Green Rooms” design concept and rejected the Kahn plan as too formal and too sterile. The Kahn plan has hung fire for the last thirty-three years and now, as the $12.9 million Southpoint Park Phase I approaches the start of construction, the Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt Institute has put all their eggs in the Kahn basket. If our public officials no longer find the 2004 survey valid, why don’t they commission another? Parks should be built for the public that will use them not for the architectural community that will visit once and never return.
Maybe supporters of Governor's Island development would like the honor of being the site for the Louis Kahn's memorial. In fact, a memorial based upon FDR's Four Freedom's speech (here is transcript and audio) is far more appropriate at a location facing downtown Manhattan and the World Trade Center/Freedom Tower site than on Roosevelt Island where it is not wanted and detracts from a real, green, waterfront park. A memorial to FDR, who overcame many health difficulties, on Governor's Island would also be a fitting tribute that complements Mayor Bloomberg's International Public Health Center proposal for Governors Island.Image of Kahn/FDR memorial is from Architectural Record.
Roosevelt Island would be glad to cede the Louis Kahn Memorial to Governor's Island. To paraphrase the great, all knowing and wise Henny Youngman - Take the Louis Kahn memorial ... PLEASE!
You Tube video link of 360 degree view from Southpoint Park is here.