A testimonial to the former U.S. president, the memorial will be a tribute to diversity and inclusion
Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation (RIOC) and the Roosevelt Island Disabled Association (RIDA) recently announced plans to celebrate the 31st anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) with the unveiling of the FDR Hope Memorial, an immersive work of art commemorating former U.S. president and disability advocate, Franklin D. Roosevelt.
“We’re proud to be able to add this experiential work to our robust offering of progressive art and it’s an honor to unveil such a significant and symbolic statue here on Roosevelt Island,” said Shelton J. Haynes, President & CEO of RIOC. “We are reminded every day, by our island’s name, that we have a legacy to uphold by continuing to represent how inclusion and diversity can prosper in New York.”
Located in a peaceful alcove in Roosevelt Island’s Southpoint Park, the memorial features two bronze figures depicting a meeting between FDR, in a wheelchair of his design, reaching out to greet a young girl who is also disabled by polio. The figures are set directly on a plaza of engraved granite in the shape of the Oval Office, surrounded by inclusive benches and inscribed pavers that document social progress in the treatment of disabled people.
“People are not defined by their disability, said Wendy Hersh, President of RIDA. “We at RIDA believe that anyone with any disability should strive to reach their goal and are able to reach their full potential – enabled, not disabled!”
FDR was diagnosed with polio in 1921, thirty years before the disease reached its peak in the United States. With his diagnosis, FDR became an advocate and role model for all who face life with disabilities. He brought awareness to accessibility for all and worked to pass legislation that would expand for decades, culminating with the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act in 1990.
“The highly anticipated opening will be both a celebration of the collaborative efforts of many determined individuals and organizations to realize a significant and inspiring new place for Roosevelt Island as well as an affirmation of Roosevelt Island’s continued potential to lead as a model of inclusion and acceptance,” said Marc Diamond, Chair of the FDR Hope Memorial Committee.
Commissioned in 2010, this project realizes the vision of former RIDA president, Jim Bates, who was inspired by the example that FDR set for people with disabilities to achieve great things and help others. Artist Meredith Bergmann worked with Marc Diamond and others, to design a fully accessible space surrounding the monument that would convey its history and vision. This inspirational tribute will be unveiled with a ribbon-cutting on Saturday, July 17th.
“It was an honor to be chosen for this project, which celebrates FDR as an inspiration to the disabled — especially the island residents who’d survived polio and those who are dealing with post-polio syndrome, and celebrates Roosevelt Island as a beacon leading the movement to mainstream people with disabilities. As the mother of a young man who struggles with disability — our son Dan has a severe form of autism — the project has been deeply meaningful to me,” said Meredith Bergmann, the artist behind the memorial. “When I won this commission in 2010, I was told that the site would be between FDR Four Freedoms State Park and Cornell Tech University — neither of which existed yet. And now those plans have been fulfilled, providing a place where people can feel hope as they contemplate the effort and heroism that moves us forward to a better future.”
Guest speakers attending the FDR Hope Memorial unveiling will include Wendy Hersh, President of RIDA; Shelton J. Haynes, President & CEO of RIOC; Marc Diamond, Chair of the FDR Hope Memorial Committee; artist Meredith Bergmann and her son Dan; Assembly Member Rebecca Seawright; Manhattan Borough President, Gale Brewer; and Representative Caroline Maloney, among others.
Assembly Member Rebecca Seawright said, “I commend the Roosevelt Island Disabled Association and the late former President Jim Bates for the successful push to bring the FDR Hope Memorial to Roosevelt Island. We were proud to have secured State funding, and the final dollars from an anonymous constituent donor for this memorial which honors the strength of those living with disabilities in overcoming struggle and adversity. Thank you to the sculptor Meredith Bergmann for bringing this FDR Hope Memorial sculpture to life!”
Council Member Ben Kallos said, “I could think of no better tribute to FDR and to ideals of diversity and inclusion than this monument. We should never take the protections offered to disabled Americans for granted, and we should also make sure we value and recognize the progress we have made on this as a nation over the decades. Roosevelt Island is honoring these ideals and living up to them and I am proud to be its representative. Thank you to Artist Meredith Bergmann and to RIOC for making the monument a reality.”
About Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation (RIOC)
The Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation (RIOC) was created in 1984 by the State of New York as a public benefit corporation with a mission to plan, design, develop, operate, and maintain Roosevelt Island. With a focus on innovative and environmentally friendly solutions, RIOC is committed to providing services that enhance the island’s residential community. RIOC manages the two-mile-long island’s roads, parks, buildings, a sports facility, and public transportation, including the iconic Roosevelt Island Tramway. Additionally, RIOC operates a Public Safety Department that helps maintain a safe and secure environment for residents, employees, business owners, and visitors.