Silicon Alley U
on the waterfront
It wasn’t all politicos and power brokers at the ribbon cutting for the FDR Four Freedoms Park gathered at the tip of Roosevelt Island earlier this week. Cornell had a strong showing, too, since their new tech campus will be the park’s neighbor to the north within a few years. Cornell president and jockey David Skorton was there, and so was Eric Schmidt, the Google executive chairman who is serving on a three-man advisory panel for the campus.
Wearing a natty tweed blazer and jaunty blue scarf, Mr. Schmidt was wandering just south of the sloping lawn, near the massive bust of the 32nd president that is a centerpiece of the park, when The Observer caught up with him. “I would say first it’s probably the most beautiful new public structures in America today, it’s so visually arresting,” Mr. Schmidt said. He thought is was a stunning space both to look at and to look out from.
on the waterfront
It was not all somber speeches at the ribbon cutting for Four Freedoms Park yesterday.
Naturally, this was an event honoring one the nation’s greatest presidents, so there was bound to be some politics in the mix, not just quaint platitudes about FDR and recastings of the Four Freedoms speech as each speaker tried to rhetorically show up the others. What The Observer was not counting on was what sounded like a full-on stump speech for President Obama at the end of Bill Clinton’s remarks from the dais in the park at the tip of Roosevelt Island. He did everything but call out the president by name:
It took 40 years, some 14,600 days, between the creation of Roosevelt Island to the ribbon cutting today for Four Freedoms Park, a memorial to the 32nd president at the island’s southern tip. Today was the greatest of all those days, not simply because Louis Kahn’s dramatic, elemental vision for the park had finally been realized, but also it was a beautiful day, one full of promise, just like the memorial itself.
The bright blue sky, the beaming sun, the crisp fall air, the weather truly was suited to this place. Mayor Bloomberg joked with Governor Cuomo before the ceremony began that he had sent all the rainy weather that had been expected upstate, to which the governor responded that was fine, he would just bottle the water and sell it back to us.
But beyond the levity of friends, families and dignitaries, beyond the excitement of one of New York’s longest-suffering projects being realized, there was an twinge of trauma. The weight of history hung heavily on this place. Seasoned politicos and power brokers jammed the folding seats arrayed on Kahn’s sloping emerald lawn. They were all too well aware of the challenges facing the nation, in many ways as great as when Franklin Roosevelt invoked his Four Freedoms almost seven decades ago.