Photographer: James Ewing/OTTO

Roosevelt Island: The Incredible Site Where Hillary Clinton Is Kicking Off Her Campaign

On June 13, Hillary Clinton will deliver a speech laying out the themes of her presidential campaign on New York's Roosevelt Island, the narrow, two-mile-long sliver of land in the East River between Manhattan and Queens that was re-named after liberal icon Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1971. Before that, it was known as “Welfare Island,” owing to the hospitals located there throughout much of the 20th century.  

Running underneath the Queensboro Bridge, with staggering views of Manhattan’s midtown skyline, Roosevelt Island is an odd gem often overlooked by tourists. Home to less than 15,000 residents, the island did not accommodate automobile traffic until the early 1970s, and cars still remain scarce there. The Roosevelt Island Tramway, a red gondola that seems better suited for a ski resort, connects the island to Manhattan, as does a single subway stop on the F line, and buses to Queens use the Roosevelt Island Bridge. 

Though Roosevelt Island has been home to several famous residents—including Mae West, Billie Holiday, Boss Tweed, and Emma Goldman—for years, its unofficial mayor was actor Al Lewis, who played Grandpa on the television show The Munsters. For Clinton, however, the setting for her speech will capitalize on the dramatic views as well as the symbolism of its namesake. “Throughout her career, Hillary Clinton has been inspired by FDR’s belief that America is stronger when we summon the work and talents of all Americans and has long admired Eleanor Roosevelt as a role model,” her campaign said in a press release about the venue.

  1. Entering the park
    Photographer: James Ewing/OTTO

    Entering the park

    The entrance to Four Freedoms Park is an imposing staircase that offers no description of the memorial that begins at the top. The name of the memorial honors President Roosevelt's eighth State of the Union address, in which he outlined four basic human freedoms. These freedoms, which later became the foundation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, are freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom from want, and freedom from fear.

  2. An unrealized vision
    Photographer: James Ewing/OTTO

    An unrealized vision

    The park was designed in 1973 by Louis Kahn, who is considered one of the greatest architects of the 20th century. He is known for his use of bold geometric forms and the creative manipulation of sunlight, which can be seen throughout Four Freedoms Park. Lack of funding put the realization of his design on hold for almost 40 years, until the memorial opened in 2012.

  3. The memorial's focal point
    Photographer: James Ewing/OTTO

    The memorial's focal point

    A bronze bust of President Roosevelt, created by famed sculptor Jo Davidson, stands at the southern tip of the memorial park and only 300 meters from the United Nations headquarters. The back of the granite box containing the bust is engraved with the president’s 1941 Four Freedoms Speech.

  4. A reflective space
    Photographer: James Ewing/OTTO

    A reflective space

    The granite “room” that stands behind the bust of Roosevelt was built as a contemplative space where visitors can quietly reflect on the words and accomplishments of the former president while looking out over the water and city. The memorial’s position in and view of the East River is fitting, given President Roosevelt’s known affinity for the sea. 

  5. A standout in the cityscape
    Photographer: James Ewing/OTTO

    A standout in the cityscape

    Four Freedoms Park is an open, green respite from the hustle and congestion of city life that stands out against the backdrop of New York City’s skyscrapers and bridges.