FDR Four Freedoms Park

More than a year after its debut, we finally trekked to Roosevelt Island to visit the FDR Four Freedoms Park. The stark minimalism of this memorial was a beautiful contrast to the ever-present Manhattan skyline surrounding it.

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The dramatic backdrop was a photographer's dream and gave greater emphasis to President Roosevelt's message during his famous 1941 State of the Union speech at the height of World War II. Nowhere in the world are those four human freedoms--freedom of speech and expression, freedom of worship, freedom from want, and freedom from fear--more alive than in New York City.While the memorial is a fascinating celebration of Roosevelt and his hope for humans rights around the world, it also provides a great opportunity to venture to an often-forgotten part of the city.

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Most New Yorkers have probably seen the Roosevelt Island tram crossing the East River, but there likely aren't many who have made the journey.

We've often looked up at these sky buses and wondered what it'd be like to cross to the other side, and the ride did not disappoint. This system was surprisingly convenient--trams run every 15 minutes and the commute only takes five minutes--and very clean and comfortable--the cars recently received a $25 million renovation in 2010. The best part? It's easily accessible with your standard Metrocard!

Seeing our bustling home city around and beneath us from this 360* view was a refreshing, exhilarating and fascinating experience ... a poor man's helicopter tour.

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Stepping off the trams, the island itself was equally fascinating. While much of it is still covered with derelict hospitals, prisons and rental buildings from its past as "Blackwell's Island" and "Welfare Island", the northern half is populated with shiny, modern condos.The walk to the park on the southernmost tip felt like a walk through history.

With its close proximity to both Manhattan and Queens, the skyscrapers we pass without notice daily also loomed even taller than usual from this perspective.

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Arriving at the park was a third assault to our senses. Unlike the rest of the island, the memorial still felt brand new with its pristine white walls and perfectly manicured trees.

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At first glance, there doesn't appear to be much to see, no exhibits or artifacts. But there's a beauty in the simplicity--the triangular shape of the memorial walls draws your gaze to the giant, iconic bronze bust of Roosevelt at the end of the island.

Behind the impressive bust, the views are breathtaking and alone make the trip worth it. On the wall behind you are the words of the famous Four Freedoms speech etched in concrete. In front is the unobstructed view of Manhattan, Queens and Brooklyn. There's no wall separating you from the East River, and it's as if Roosevelt is laying his beloved city--a city that celebrates independence, individuality and creativity--at your feet.

FDR Four Freedoms Park 1 FDR Four Freedoms Park Roosevelt Island, NY 10044 (Closed Tuesdays)