Dramatic design, presidential inspiration and a refreshing perspective on the New York skyline make for an arresting trio at the Franklin D Roosevelt Four Freedoms Park. Clinging to the southern tip of sinuous Roosevelt Island on the East River, this remarkable monument honors America's 32nd president and his State of the Union speech of 1941. It is breathtakingly cinematic in its scale and effect; a luminous granite vision designed by renowned architect Louis Kahn in 1973, but only completed in 2012 – 38 years after Kahn's death.
A sweep of grand, stark steps lead up to a sloping triangular lawn. Fringed by linden trees, the lawn gently spills down to a bronze bust of Roosevelt by American sculptor Jo Davidson. Framing the sculpture is a granite wall, hand engraved with Roosevelt's rousing speech, in which he spoke of the four essential human freedoms he desired for the world: freedom of speech, freedom of worship, freedom from want and freedom from fear. The wall also serves to separate the bust from 'The Room,' a contemplative granite terrace clinging to the very tip of the island. The combination of lapping waves and hovering skyline are utterly mesmerizing. In front of the steps near the entrance to the park, the gothic ruin of a 19th-century smallpox hospital only serves to accentuate the contemporary architecture beyond.
Although the F subway line will get you to Roosevelt Island, it's much more fun catching the aerial tramway car, which glides above the East River, offering eagle-eye views of the Manhattan skyline. The monument is a 15-minute walk south of both the Roosevelt Island tramway car and subway stations.