Creating a reading room at FDR Four Freedoms Park

FDR ParkBy now we’ve set up Uni reading rooms on sidewalks, streets, plazas, and parks across New York City. Most of the time, our challenge is to create an oasis—a place to pause, reflect and engage the mind—in what is otherwise a dense environment designed for quick transactions and constant motion.

On May 10th and 11th, the Uni Project was called upon to do something slightly different: create an open-air reading room for FDR Four Freedoms Park, the memorial to President Franklin D. Roosevelt. This stunning park on the southern tip of Roosevelt Island is an oasis itself, drawing New Yorkers and visitors from around the world to reflect upon FDR and his famous 1941 “Four Freedoms” speech, while offering a vista of the city across the water. In this special place, we were asked to offer a reading room that matched the contemplative environment and respected the memorial’s architectural design by Louis Kahn.

The Uni reading room worked beautifully on all fronts. We drew on parts of our collection suited for the moment, including books on New York history and the waterfront. And we provided a place of repose mid-way down the processional walkway leading to the dramatic bust of FDR and his words engraved in stone.

Thanks to volunteers Stephanie Yee, Emily Jacobson, and Tori Kuhr. Thanks also to Diana Narvaez and boys from George Jackson Academy, who joined us on the island. And special thanks to our host, the Four Freedoms Park Conservancy, for inviting us—we’re excited to keep working together.

Uni Four Freedoms Park

The Uni brakes for goslings. Approaching the memorial park, carefully.

Uni Four Freedoms Park

Uni Four Freedoms Park

Uni Four Freedoms Park

Uni Four Freedoms Park

Uni Four Freedoms Park

Leslie shows off “Manhattan Unfurled,” a pen-drawn panorama of the NYC waterfront skyline.

Uni Four Freedoms Park

Uni Four Freedoms Park

Uni Four Freedoms Park

NYPL Roosevelt Island Library Manager Nicole Nelson and Conservancy Director of Education and Public Programs Nellie Chaban.

Uni Four Freedoms Park

Uni Four Freedoms Park

Uni Four Freedoms Park

Uni Four Freedoms Park

Book recommendations! Thanks, James and Christopher.

Uni Four Freedoms Park

Uni Four Freedoms Park

Uni Four Freedoms Park

Uni Four Freedoms Park

Uni Four Freedoms Park

The clouds broke on our second day, and the island was covered in flowering trees. I rode the tram over.

Uni Four Freedoms Park

Uni Four Freedoms Park

Uni Four Freedoms Park

Uni Four Freedoms Park

Uni Four Freedoms Park

Uni Four Freedoms Park

A park manager finds one of the titles we carried especially for the day.

Uni Four Freedoms Park

Uni Four Freedoms Park

A shelf of books dedicated to the urban landscape curated by Place in History.

Uni Four Freedoms Park

Uni Four Freedoms Park

This man discovers “New York from Above” and a photo of the island before the memorial was completed in 2012.

Uni Four Freedoms Park

Uni Four Freedoms Park

What reading looks like. Focus. No distractions.

Uni Four Freedoms Park

Uni Four Freedoms Park

When the sun moved, we moved the reading room under the shade of trees.

Uni Four Freedoms Park

Uni Four Freedoms Park

Uni Four Freedoms Park

Uni Four Freedoms Park

Uni volunteer Stephanie Yee has logged some serious hours reading aloud across NYC.

Uni Four Freedoms Park

Uni Four Freedoms Park

Uni Four Freedoms Park

At the end of the day, park rangers asked to solve our Tangram puzzle.

Uni Four Freedoms Park

Team effort solves it. Four Freedoms Park staff are outstanding—the space is run beautifully.

Uni Four Freedoms Park

Thanks to everyone for reading with us in this remarkable park. We hope to return soon.

Comments are closed.

The Uni Project is the operating name (DBA) of Street Lab, a 501c3 nonprofit.