Tuesday, June 16, 2009

FERI Claims Desire To Work With Roosevelt Island Disabled Community On FDR Memorial But RIDA Member Wants Specifics

Children Standing Next To FDR Wheelchair Statue in Washington DC Image From Carol

After many, many years of paying absolutely no attention to the wishes and desires of Roosevelt Island residents in regard to the proposed Kahn/FDR Memorial at Southpoint Park, the Franklin & Eleanor Roosevelt Institute (FERI) now claim an interest in working together with the Roosevelt Island Disabled Association (RIDA) in finding a way to recognize FDR's overcoming of his disability.

FERI sent this letter to the Directors of RIDA.
The Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt Institute greatly appreciates the interest of the Roosevelt Island disabled community regarding the Four Freedoms Park which is to be built on Southpoint. Those who took the trouble to come to the recent meeting are absolutely right – we must find a way to tell our universal audience of FDR’s disability and the important role it played in his greatness as President of the United States. I never give a speech about FDR without telling the story of his disability. He was a man of incomparable personal courage. At the age of 39, he was stricken with infantile paralysis. He would never again walk or stand alone unassisted. He had endured almost unimaginable pain. He had to learn to move again, to stand, to rely upon the strength of others. He never gave in to despair, to self-pity, to discouragement. Just twelve years after he was stricken he was elected President of our country, itself paralyzed by the most fearful economic Depression of its history. He renewed America’s self-confidence just as he had his own. He organized the Infantile Paralysis Foundation and the March of Dimes which produced the resources to finance the extraordinary work of Dr. Salk and Dr. Sabine which resulted in the present possibility of eradication of polio in the world. He worked with polio victims throughout his lifetime, using Warm Springs as a place where he helped others recover just as he hoped someday he would walk again. He encouraged the concept of “independent living” for the disabled – and I have met countless members of the disabled community who regard FDR as an icon of courage and hope.

The Roosevelt Institute annually awards the Franklin Delano Roosevelt International Disability Award at the United Nations, honoring countries that have made significant progress in assisting the disabled in receiving the full rights of opportunity and citizenship. This year we hope to have President Obama use the occasion of his first visit to the United Nations to sign on behalf of the United States the Covenant for the Rights of the Disabled adopted by the General Assembly in 2005 as part of the FDR Award ceremony. The Four Freedoms Park, of course, looks out on the United Nations of which Franklin Roosevelt is remembered as the Founder. It is another link that will have extraordinary meaning for the Four Freedoms Park.

Somehow we must find a way to convey this incredible story to those who visit Southpoint. Building on our initial meeting, we will work with representatives of Roosevelt Island to achieve that objective. We are grateful to Virginia Granato and Dr. Resnick for their effective presentation. Our task is to work together to find a way to accomplish our mutual purpose, honoring a great President and remembering the qualities of character that enabled him to lead our country so well.

Ambassador William J. vanden Heuvel
Chairman, Franklin D. Roosevelt Four Freedoms Park, LLC
Founder and Chair Emeritus, Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt Institute
A member of the RIDA Board replied:
That all sounds well and good, however, we would be interested in knowing specifically how you intend to "recognize FDR as a disabled person?" Are you intending to support and fund a sculpture of FDR either sitting in a wheelchair or standing with the aid of his crutches and placed in the Four Freedoms Park? Or are you just trying to placate the disabled community with a small plaque "somewhere in the park?" If that is your intention then it's very clear to all of us that the Kahn Design is more important to all of you than actually recognizing FDR's disability. And that's a real shame and unacceptable!

Nancy Brown

Image of FDR Using Crutches From Poughkeepsie Journal and FDR Library/Museum

Could FERI's sudden expression of a desire to work with RIDA have anything to do with FERI needing the approval of RIOC's Board of Directors in order to move forward with their Kahn Memorial and that the resident RIOC board members may be favorable disposed towards their RIDA neighbors quest to have a FDR Memorial on Roosevelt Island that recognizes FDR's disability and honors all those who overcome great challenges?

There is a possibility that the June 25 RIOC Board of Directors meeting will have an Agenda Item to consider the approval of FERI's Kahn Memorial. If approved, based upon previous experience, FERI will go back to doing what they want and ignore the Roosevelt Island community once again.


Anonymous said...

Another example how bad attitude is going to ruin any chance the RIDA has to have a dialog with FERI.


How typical of a FERI supporter to equate seeking specific information with a "bad attitude".

The only reason an acknowledgment of FDR's disability is even on FERI's radar screen is because RIDA started to make a stink about it and the Residents Association is backing up RIDA as well.

There was no "bad attitued" just a RIDA member sticking up for themselves.


sorry for typo on "attitude".

Anonymous said...

Wait. Let me get this straight. The tone of RIDA's reply and its assumptions that the FERI is not going to do exactly what the RIDA wants to see is not an example of bad attitude? If I was the recipient of an e-mail like that from the RIDA (especially after a polite first attempt by the FERI to see what can be done) my first reaction would be "well, ok. f' you, too". Am I the only one?

Why are so many people so hostile here on RI? Or maybe it just stands out because it is a small community?


I could be wrong but it appears to me that you are either new to Roosevelt Island or to the issue of the Kahn/FDR Memorial.

There is a history and context to FERI's interaction with the Roosevelt Island Community.

FERI has been missing deadlines, breaking promises and ignoring Roosevelt Island residents for many years.

It is therefore not unreasonable, nor does it exhibit a "bad attitude" for any Roosevelt Island resident to ask for specifics when FERI claims to want to work together on anything.

Also, there are no more hostile people who live on Roosevelt island than anywhere else in NYC. I believe you are correct to say it just stands out more because of the small community.

Anonymous said...

I am neither new here nor am I not aware of the tensions between the FERI and the RIDA (and RIRA, I'd assume). The thing is that once in a while you have to realize that an opportunity is coming up and that you should keep all the hate and pessimism and what have you on the back burner and see how it develops. A reply like that from the RIDA is not helping here.