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Disability Group Short Funds to Finish FDR Memorial 3 Years After Approval

By Shaye Weaver | July 27, 2015 4:28pm
 Sculptor Meredith Bergmann was commissioned to create the bronze FDR Hope Memorial.
Sculptor Meredith Bergmann was commissioned to create the bronze FDR Hope Memorial.
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Courtesy the Roosevelt Island Disabled Association

ROOSEVELT ISLAND — The Roosevelt Island Disabled Association has been waiting three years to complete a memorial of Franklin D. Roosevelt planned for the FDR Four Freedoms Park, but it still hasn't managed to scrape together enough money to get it done.

"We're at a standstill right now," said Jim Bates, the Association’s president. "We’re tying to figure out exactly what to do."

The nonprofit is trying to gather $300,000 to install a statue, titled the FDR Hope Memorial, depicting the former president sitting in a wheelchair and extending his hand to a young girl walking with crutches and leg braces. The work would face the United Nations building across the East River as a nod to Roosevelt's contribution to creating the U.N.

Roughly $250,000 is needed to get the statue finished and set in bronze, Bates said. The remaining funding, approximately $50,000, would allow the group to install it and take care of the memorial’s maintenance.

The group has gathered approximately $125,000 primarily from private donations, grants from the Roosevelt Institute and Assemblywoman Rebecca Seawright.

The City Council earmarked $150,000 for the project in 2012 and that money will be used to reimburse the cost of part of the project once it's completed, according to the city’s Parks Department, which is managing those funds.

The group also has an ongoing fundraiser on its website, but it hasn't yielded enough donations so far, according to Bates.

Meredith Bergmann, the sculptor commissioned to complete the statue, has been working on it on and off since the project was approved by the Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation, which runs day-to-day operations at the park, and the Four Freedoms Park Conservancy, which maintains it, three years ago, Bates said.

Once the group has another $150,000 in the bank, Bergmann would be able to work on the project full time and the group would hire a professional fundraiser to help them raise more, Bates said.

"We're looking into the possibility of getting a bank or personal loan," he said. "Myself personally, I am a man of humble means, being disabled I don't have an avenue of knowing people with higher finances. I don’t know."

Bates also said he'd like to see the memorial installed by the fall of 2016.

CB8 Member Barbara Rudder, who introduced the project to the board on behalf of the disabled association, was hopeful that it would become a reality.

“The idea [of the memorial] brought tears to my eyes,” she said. “I thought it was going to be so beautiful and such an important thing for these amazing disabled people who carry on their lives despite their disabilities.”

Information on how to donate toward the memorial can be found on the memorial's website.