The great-granddaughter of President Franklin D. Roosevelt plans to celebrate her family’s legacy and the LGBTQ community by transforming the gray, concrete steps at Roosevelt Island’s Four Freedoms Park into what she states is “New York City’s largest LGBTQ pride flag.”
“It just seemed natural for the park to honor the LGBTQ community in this visible way,” Julia Ireland, also a member of the Four Freedoms Park Conservatory’s board of directors, told NBC News.
The 12-foot-by-100-foot staircase will be decorated in rainbow colors June 14-30, and will officially be unveiled at an event June 15 called “Ascend With Pride.” The event coincides with World Pride, which is being held in New York for the first time to honor the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall rising.
The Four Freedoms Park, which opened in 2012, commemorates Roosevelt’s eighth State of the Union on Jan. 6, 1941, during which he defined four “essential freedoms” — the freedom of speech and expression, the freedom of worship, the freedom from want and the freedom from fear.
“I’m inspired by how forward thinking the four freedoms were in 1941, and I would like to think that if my great-grandparents were alive today, they would include LGBTQ+ rights among those for which they advocated and fought,” Ireland said.
After Roosevelt’s death, his wife, Eleanor, referred to his speech to advocate for the passage of the Declaration of Human Rights, which was adopted by the United Nations in 1948.
“Part of the park’s mission in celebrating the four freedoms is to educate and inspire current and future generations to define those freedoms for themselves,” Ireland said. “The pride flag will serve as a symbol of support and a reminder of the necessity of the human rights that my family worked towards.”
The “Ascend With Pride” celebration will also include a Drag Queens Story Hour and events with VideoOut, an organization that records people sharing their coming out stories. About 4.5 million people are expected to visit New York City throughout June for Pride Month celebrations.
“I am excited to align with World Pride in New York City and to show solidarity with the LGBTQ+ movement,” Ireland said.