Planned for Roosevelt Island in NYC

Celebrating Franklin D. Roosevelt's perseverance despite the paralysis of his legs, the FDR Hope Memorial provides inspiration to those struggling with the extraordinary personal challenges of all forms of disability. The memorial will open on Roosevelt Island in NYC—with the United Nations within FDR's view.


FDR: a hero to people with disabilities

Infected with the polio virus at age 39, FDR never walked again unaided. After years of rehabilitation, FDR governed New York State and led the United States as President. From a wheelchair, he guided the country out of the Great Depression and rallied the nation to victory in World War II. During those years, in order to maintain an image of power, FDR did not call attention to his disability. 

Now, in the first memorial to FDR that focuses on his disability, the FDR Hope Memorial accurately depicts FDR's condition, as captured in a joyful moment, greeting a similarly disabled young girl.

Full size clay sculptures

Full size clay sculptures

FDR with Melody Bresina, a fellow survivor of polio

FDR with Melody Bresina, a fellow survivor of polio


In 1970, Roosevelt Island, then called Welfare Island, housed two chronic disease hospitals and a Fire Department training station. Many of the hospitals’ patients had contracted polio before the epidemic was stalled by vaccination in 1955. Some of them were in “iron lungs.” When the disease weakened the muscles of breathing, artificial respiration had to be provided. Over the years, Coler and Goldwater Hospitals pioneered the use of ventilators that freed polio victims from being tethered to stationary machines.

Nancy Brown was one of those people. For more than 30 years, she has lived in Eastwood. Nancy remembers the discussions of renaming Welfare Island. She remembers FDR’s connection to polio as one of the prime factors in the Island’s final name change. She remembers Vicki Holland. Vicki was another polio survivor who had moved from the wards of Goldwater Hospital to an apartment on Roosevelt Island. 

The Island’s housing was built with the disabled as a priority. Certain apartments were specially designed with wider doorways, lower light switches, and accessible bathroom and kitchen facilities. All of the public and commercial spaces followed suit. People in wheelchairs became part of the fabric of all of our lives. Roosevelt Island is a living, breathing memorial to FDR. And when we celebrated FDR Day here each year, it was clear that we were focused on FDR as an icon for the disabled. 

— Dr. Jack Resnick