After signing an agreement with the Roosevelt Island Disabled Association (RIDA) earlier this summer, the Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation (RIOC) is moving to complete the Roosevelt Island Hope Memorial Project next year.
The more than eight-year project had stalled due to the failure to raise the necessary funding to complete it.
The project’s intent is to commission a sculpture depicting President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s disability and locate it in Southpoint Park. Led by former RIDA President Jim Bates, the project began in 2010 and has culminated with the casting of the bronze figures of the chosen design, that of FDR in a wheelchair greeting a young girl who requires leg braces to walk. Sculptor Meredith Bergmann was inspired by photographs of the president in similar encounters with young children. The project has received $250,000 in major funding to date; a $100,000 grant from the Four Freedoms Park Conservancy and $150,000 via a private donation.
“I believe that this is the right thing to do, that RIOC finish this project; particularly since the passing of Jim Bates last November, I believe the Hope Memorial will be a fitting tribute to his legacy,” said Susan Rosenthal, president and CEO of RIOC.
As the first major public work of art dedicated to FDR's disability, the sculpture is unique in its frank depiction of FDR’s condition, with a strong upper body, thin, weakened legs, and an energy and confidence in his posture and warmth in his expression that belies his physical challenges, according to the website fdrhopememorial.org
The remaining work includes the installation of the fabricated quarry stone, which will be sourced from North Carolina Granite, the same quarry that provided the specified Mt. Airy White stone to FFP. The choice of stone is intentional, its acquisition and chosen manner of laying symbolizes a relationship between the two memorials. Along with the stone, construction will involve installation of the bronze figures, benches and lighting with a focus on ADA accessibility. The anticipated total cost for RIOC to complete the memorial is $300,000.
In turn, RIDA is assigning RIOC ownership of the project sculpture and funds awarded by the City Council for up to $150,000 in reimbursement of construction costs
ORIGIN OF THE PROJECT
In 2010, as the Franklin & Eleanor Roosevelt Institute (FERI) sought approval from RIOC to build FDR Four Freedoms Park (FFP), the Roosevelt Island Disabled Association (RIDA), led by Bates and Nancy Brown, protested the lack of representation of FDR as disabled in the park’s design.
In response, FERI pledged $100,000 toward a sculpture project sponsored by RIDA that would portray FDR in his wheelchair at a site nearby to be determined. At the May 2010 meeting of the Board of Directors, RIOC approved the siting of the FDR Hope Memorial at a location in Southpoint Park just north of the Small Pox Hospital.
Bates formed a committee – including architect Marc Diamond, current RIDA President Wendy Hersh, Vice President Nancy Brown, Marilyn Atkins, Ron Becker, Fay Christian, Jonathan Kalkin, Rick O’Conor, Ellen Polivy, Howard Polivy, Archie Price , Dr. Jack Resnick, and Margie Smith - composed of people within and outside RIDA, which hired artist Bergmann following a competitive selection process that included input from the Percent for Art office of the NYC Department of Cultural Affairs. Following a period of extensive research, the two-person scene was conceived and modeled by Bergmann and the plaza was designed.
The sculpture depicts a joyous moment when FDR has turned to greet a young girl who, like FDR, requires leg braces to walk. She has tucked her crutches under one arm in anticipation of shaking hands with the president, who we know must be an extraordinary role model for her.
REVIEWS AND APPROVALS
The committee approved the design at several stages.
The project was presented to the community as a small-scale model at RIVAA Gallery. A full- scale mock-up of the sculpture at the site was reviewed by the committee.
The project received unanimous approval of NYC Community Board 8.
The figures are complete, having been cast in bronze by Polich Tallex foundry in Orange County, N.Y. The figures are currently stored at the foundry.
(FDR’s desk, which had originally been included in the composition, was removed for several reasons, including a preference for a greater focus on the interaction of the two figures. In its place, a timeline provides a more effective way to satisfy the committee’s goal to describe the History and Vision.)
RIOC OWNERSHIP UPON COMPLETION
RIOC, RIDA, and the artist will share intellectual property rights.