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Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Celebrity Signage Included At Proposed Kahn/FDR Memorial But No Recognition Of Disabled - Another Insult To FDR & Roosevelt Island Community

Image of Freedom Trees for Roosevelt Island from FDR Four Freedoms Park

In addition to destroying the beautiful NYC skyline and waterfront views from Roosevelt Island's Southpoint Park, the proposed Kahn/FDR memorial also fails to acknowledge FDR as a man and a President of the United States who achieved greatness despite a disability that forced him into a wheelchair. The absence, in any meaningful way, of FDR's use of a wheelchair or crutches is particularly shameful given the large disabled and handicapped community at Roosevelt Island's Coler-Goldwater Hospital complex.

A similar controversy arose at the FDR Memorial in Washington DC. According to this 1/11/01 LA Times article:
... Advocates for the disabled objected strongly when the memorial opened 3 1/2 years ago with its centerpiece FDR statue only hinting at Roosevelt’s polio affliction. It shows a cape-covered Roosevelt in a straight chair with two tiny wheels....

... Four-year-old Hannah McFadden, an Albanian immigrant born with a leg deformity, didn’t need her mother to explain the significance of Wednesday’s unveiling of a statue depicting President Franklin D. Roosevelt in a wheelchair.

“It means people on crutches and in a wheelchair can do anything,” said Hannah, sporting hot-pink crutches for the ceremony in which President Clinton dedicated the statue...
The National Organization of Disability wrote of the importance in recognizing FDR's use of a wheelchair and incorporating it into the Washington DC memorial.
President Clinton dedicated a new statue of President Franklin D. Roosevelt in a wheelchair at the FDR Memorial in Washington, D.C. on the morning of January 10, 2001. The statue, the first to depict a world leader using a wheelchair, will be located at the entrance to the seven-acre Memorial site in Potomac Park, between the Lincoln and Jefferson Memorials. "This dedication represents a great victory for people with disabilities. FDR's Memorial finally will acknowledge his significant disability experience, which forged his leadership qualities-courage, determination, and compassion-that enabled him to successfully lead the nation through the worst crises of the 20th century," said N.O.D. President Alan Reich. "This magnificent statue will be an inspiration to people worldwide, disabled and non-disabled alike."...

Image of FDR Memorial Wheelchair from Ability Unleashed

A great idea for an appropriate and honorable FDR Memorial on Roosevelt Island was suggested by Roosevelt Island's Doctor Jack Resnick who treats many of our disabled residents.
Somebody designed a memorial to FDR on Roosevelt Island that completely ignored the man’s physical disability. Franklin Roosevelt spent much of his adult life in a wheelchair. The polio virus, which infected him in 1921 at the age of 39, left him with almost no use of his legs. Twelve years later he became President of the United States. He went on to save the country from economic calamity and the world from Hitler....

...Roosevelt Island is a living, breathing memorial to FDR. And when we celebrated FDR Day here each year, it was clear that we were focused on FDR as an icon for the disabled.

The FDR Memorial on this Island should focus on the President’s strength in conquering his disability. Many possibilities come to mind. For instance, he should not be memorialized with a bust. We should see a greater-than-life-sized statue of him sitting in a wheelchair – and he should face north toward Goldwater and Coler Hospitals...
The Chris Reeve home page includes the Congressional House and Senate resolutions in favor of a FDR Wheelchair Statue for the Memorial in Washington DC. Shouldn't such a representation of FDR really be just as appropriate, if not more so, here on Roosevelt Island.

Unfortunately to date, it is more important to the supporters of Roosevelt Island's incorrectly labled FDR memorial to honor the projects architect, Louis Kahn, than it is to honor FDR and the disabled community here on Roosevelt Island and elsewhere.


Anonymous said...

A memorial is a symbol. This memorial of FDR is not supposed to be about being disabled, sitting in a wheel chair. It is the architect's interpretation of who FDR was and what he stands for. It doesn't have to be a literal 1:1 physical copy of the man.

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