Friday, October 26, 2007

Memorial to Louis Kahn or FDR at Southpoint Park?

The images above are from the proposed Louis Kahn Memorial purported to be for President Franklin Roosevelt that some hope to be installed at Southpoint Park on Roosevelt Island, (Top image is from Architectural Record, bottom from NY Times). The New York Sun is reporting today that:

A plan to build a memorial to President Franklin Roosevelt on Roosevelt Island is getting a boost from city leaders, who are meeting today to underscore their support for the initiative. The movement for the memorial, which was designed by architect Louis Kahn almost 35 years ago, needs to raise $40 million by the end of the year; as of July 20, it had collected $5.1 million.

The city leaders set to attend the event include Democratic Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney; City Council Speaker Christine Quinn; City Councilwoman Jessica Lappin; New York State Assembly member Micah Kellner, and the president of Manhattan, Scott Stringer.
As I have stated before, my impression is that for many proponents of the Memorial, their support is based more upon the desire for a Louis Kahn project in NYC than to honor President Franklin D. Roosevelt, particularly since there is an existing FDR national memorial near the National Mall in Washington DC and Roosevelt Island as well the FDR Drive are named after the late President.

Those in support of this proposal should know that there are many residents of Roosevelt Island who do not want this massive granite structure with rows of trees obstructing the beautiful waterfront views from Southpoint Park and further impeding access to the East River. This NY Sun article had the following statement indicating opposition to the Louis Kahn memorial by Roosevelt Island residents:
The president and CEO of the Roosevelt Island Residents Association, Matthew Katz, said he is concerned that the memorial will cut off views to the east and west. A survey of residents found that most want "the greenest thing possible" in that space, he said.

"The Roosevelts were gods in my house, growing up," Mr. Katz said. "Whether this is the appropriate memorial is another question."

The association's secretary, Sherie Helstien, said that by resisting Kahn's memorial design, residents are trying to "save the last big community park" in the city. "I think a lot of us are just hoping they don't get the money," she said. "We don't want that thing here."
I agree. We do not want any green space nor access to the water from Southpoint's Park removed because of this proposed memorial.

More background on this issue from this NY Times 2005 article:
the Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation, the state-appointed organization that runs the island, has commissioned a new design by a New York landscape designer for the 14-acre site, known as Southpoint Park. Taking into account feedback from residents and visitors, the design would substitute the granite memorial and overarching linden trees of Kahn's plan with a lawn for 7,000 spectators to view performances on a removable stage. There would also be a sledding hill and a skate pond.

..."Kahn's memorial was played out in a different time, a different era, a different world," said Herbert Berman, president of the Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation. "It was right for 30 years ago, not for now." Today, he said, those who live on Roosevelt Island are interested in less formal uses for the land.

...Last April, the operating corporation invited the Trust for Public Land, a national nonprofit organization that helps communities protect and conserve land by developing parks and recreational activities, to come up with new proposals for attracting people to the park and to the island.

In November the trust presented the operating corporation with "Wild Gardens/Green Rooms," a picturesque park designed by Mark K. Morrison, a local landscape designer who is currently working on security fencing for the United Nations, as well as on numerous Manhattan playgrounds. The design includes a cafe in the ruins of the smallpox hospital and an earth mound providing enough contour for sledding in winter. The removable stage at the edge of a large lawn would be located at the southernmost tip, where Kahn put his granite room open to the sea.

..."Louis Kahn would have done it differently if he were alive today," said Charles McKinney, the consultant in charge of the Roosevelt Island park proposal for the Trust for Public Land. "He was well known for his concerns about creating communal spaces, and he would have understood the importance of this community's concerns, and he would have responded."

Here is a link to the Southpoint Park Conceptual Plans discussed above including the Wild Gardens/Green Rooms concept approved by most residents as well as the Visionary Landscape concept that includes the Kahn Memorial, assuming funding can be obtained.

If the proposed Louis Kahn memorial is built, Roosevelt Island loses opportunities for special events that produce views like this from Thom Sokoloski's The Encampment as well as normal everyday experiences of walking down to beautiful green parkland and listening to the sounds of the East River. Or maybe even the possibility of importing a sand beach to Southoint Park similar to the one in Long Island City at the NY Water Taxi Beach.

Photo by Ianqui

Photo by Power Gail

Robert Bennet for The New York Times

Image from Eater.

It would be a real shame to give up so much potential for Southpoint Park for this memorial.

As I was writing this post Curbed picked up story here.


Anonymous said...

besides, if they put up the kahn monstrosity, they won't be able to put luxury condos down there.

a park? you can always bulldoze that...