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Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Gorgeous Mermaid Comes Ashore at Southpoint Park, Roosevelt Island - Can She Save Waterfront Views From Louis Kahn/FDR Mausoleum?

Image from RAKURS Architects

The Roosevelt Island Committee of Community Planning Board 8 will be holding a public hearing tonight at 7 PM in the Good Shepherd Church Community Center (543 Main Street) to discuss these important issues facing Roosevelt Island:
  1. the future of Coler-Goldwater Hospital;
  2. Tram and F Train transportation issues and
  3. the future development of Southpoint Park including the proposed Louis Kahn/FDR Mausoleum. Sorry, they call it a Memorial.
An advertisement in the 1/12/08 Main Street WIRE (PDF File) announced that proponents of the Louis Kahn/FDR memorial were bringing some heavy hitters - Franklin & Eleanor Roosevelt Institute Founder William vanden Heuvel and architect James Polshek - out to Roosevelt Island to attend the community board meeting and advocate on behalf of their cherished project. As an aside, I wonder when was the last time during the prior 35 years of failure to build the Kahn project that either of these gentlemen visited Roosevelt Island or talked to some of the residents and users of Southpoint Park.

As readers of this blog know, I and many others are adamantly opposed to the Kahn project because it will block and destroy unique one-of-a-kind waterfront views from Southpoint Park of the East River and Brooklyn/Queens/Manhattan Skyline.

This is the view as currently exists from Southpoint Park.

Click on this link for the full beautiful panoramic effect.

Here is a You Tube video with a 360 degree view from Southpoint Park.


Now take a look at the proposed Louis Kahn project.

Image from Architectural Record


Below image from Cooper Union Exhibit


Image from NY Times

It is an indisputable fact that the one-of-a-kind, awesome and beautiful, panoramic views of the East River waterfront and Brooklyn/Queens/Manhattan skyline pictured above that are currently available from any spot at the southern end of Southpoint Park will be blocked and lost forever by the construction and placement of the proposed Louis Kahn/FDR concrete and granite memorial at the tip of Southpoint Park.

Why is that? Take a look again at the panoramic image and 360 You Tube video of the view from Southpoint Park that will be blocked by the Kahn memorial. Compare the contrasting views. There is a huge difference between the open panoramic waterfront views that currently exist at Southpoint Park or those contemplated in the Trust for the Public Land's Wild Gardens/Green Rooms (PDF File) 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. complex.
It is precisely the intended "framing views" of the design which destroys the open panoramic beauty of the East River waterfront and New York City skyline views that currently exists at Southpoint Park and is the reason why the Louis Kahn project must not be built at the proposed site.

The proponents of the Louis Kahn project are also trying to scare residents into accepting the Kahn memorial by claiming that luxury condos will be built at Southpoint Park if the Kahn project is not approved. According to Councilmember Jessica Lappin:
''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 yet still makes such a false and misleading statement. There is a plan for Southpoint Park developed by the Trust for the Public Land (TPL) called Wild Gardens/Green Rooms 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 Daily News:
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.

I believe that for many of the proponents of this project, it is more of a memorial to the architect Louis Kahn and the desire to have one of his designs built in New York City than it is to honor President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Indeed Roosevelt himself had this to say about a memorial in his honor:
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.”
Yes, let us honor President Roosevelt but not by going against his express wishes which is what the Kahn design does. Any number of honors would be more appropriate than the Kahn design such as naming Southpoint Park for him and/or placing a more appropriate memorial, perhaps by the Coler-Goldwater Rehabilitation Hospital, to him on Roosevelt Island such as this on the National Mall in Washington D.C.

Image of Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial from National Park Service

Finally for now, Roosevelt Island residents and the people of NYC deserve to have a real waterfront park at Southpoint. A place where you can enjoy open and unbroken views of the East River and New York City skyline, throw a Frisbee, have a catch, fly a kite, view outdoor movies, maybe have a summer beach like that at Long Island City's Water Taxi Beach, attend temporary exhibits like the public art installation of The Encampment and just have some fun. Roosevelt Island is a residential neighborhood and not a place for memorials like those at the National Mall in Washington DC.


Image of the Encampment from the Weblicist of Manhattan



Jumping from Southpoint Park images from Brooklyn Hillary via Roosevelt Island 360


Image of Water Taxi Beach from Eater.

Here's hoping that the Southpoint Park mermaid will be able to stop the Louis Kahn memorial just as Marina, the mermaid from the 1983 Bill Forsyth movie Local Hero starring Peter Reigert and Burt Lancaster, was able to stop the destruction of a small Scottish fishing village from the building of an Oil refinery.

The Mermaid image is from a submission to a 2006 architectural competition sponsored by the Emerging New York Architects Committee (ENYA) titled Southpoint: From Ruin to Rejuvenation.
The submission was from Moscow based RAKURS Architects.

UPDATE 2/8- Roosevelt Island 360 shows this version of the views from Southpoint Park as it currently exists


and his take with the Kahn/FDR Memorial' V shaped Linden trees.



Quite a difference don't you think?

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