Donors Will Get Names on Roosevelt Island Bust

     (CN) – A park honoring President Franklin D. Roosevelt broke a contract by failing to inscribe donors’ names near a bronze bust of FDR, a New York appeals court ruled.
     Franklin D. Roosevelt Four Freedoms Park is located at the southern tip of Roosevelt Island, between Manhattan and Queens. It commemorates the president’s “Four Freedoms” speech to Congress in 1941.
     Architect Louis Kahn designed the park just before his death in 1974, but it remained incomplete for more than three decades.
     The Franklin and Eleanor Institute Foundation eventually formed a limited liability corporation to complete the park after the Reed Foundation publicized the project with an exhibit called “Coming to Light.”
     Reed Foundation gave the Franklin D. Roosevelt Four Freedoms Park LLC a $2.5 million grant in 2010, ensuring that LLC would qualify for city and state funds to complete the park.
     The grant came with the condition that the LLC inscribe “In honor of Vera D. Rubin and Samuel Rubin. The Reed Foundation” on a 12-by-12-foot granite wall near the FDR bust.
     Though the LLC inscribed an excerpt of the Four Freedoms speech on the bust in July 2012, it did not include the Rubin Foundation credit and instead said the text should appear on a grand staircase across the park from the statue, with the names of other donors.
     When the Rubin Foundation refused to grant such consent, the LLC announced, two weeks before the park’s dedication in October 2012, its architects and consultants had advised them against including recognition text on the FDR bust since it would not be the “best aesthetic.”
     The Rubin Foundation refused to take its money back and sued the LLC for specific performance. The LLC blasted the inscription demand as a “selfish private interest” that contradicted the purpose of the foundation’s gift.
     Yale University Art Gallery director Jack Reynolds went further in his affidavit, likening the inscription request in Kahn’s architecture to “signing a donor’s name within the frame of a great painting, something … that no donor would ever insist on doing to a great Picasso or Van Gogh canvas upon donating such to a museum.”
     Kahn’s son likewise complained that the inscription would damage his father’s design, the “aesthetic purity of the space, and the purpose of the park.”
     A Manhattan judge concluded in November 2012 that the LLC had breached its contract with the foundation, and a five-justice panel of the Appellate Division’s First Department affirmed on May 2.
     “Can aesthetic considerations trump a carefully considered and crafted contractual provision dictating the specific location of an inscription on a work of art?” Justice Rolando Acosta wrote for the court. “We hold that they cannot.”
     “The LLC’s failure to perform would deprive the foundation of recognition of its substantial contribution to the park in an inscription placed in a unique location that has special significance to the foundation,” Acosta added. “Indeed, this court has long recognized that specific performance is appropriate in situations involving unique articles of property, ‘having a special and unascertainable quality.”
     Acosta additionally said that that issue of public appreciation of the monument’s aesthetics must be balanced with the responsibility to carry out donors’ wishes.
     “Indeed, the failure to protect the interest of donors risks the result that donors may become more hesitant to contribute at all,” the eight-page ruling states.

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