FDR Drive

7.7 miles

This text is part of Parks’ Historical Signs Project and can be found posted within the park.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt Drive runs along the eastern border of Manhattan from 14th Street and First Avenue, to 125th Street and Paladino Avenue. Built during World War II, it serves as one of New York City’s chief perimeter arteries of transportation, while offering motorists several of Manhattan’s best waterfront views.

This part of Manhattan was farmland until affluent New Yorkers moved uptown during the 19th century to escape the rising tide of immigration in Lower Manhattan. As the local population increased, the numbers of greenspaces near the riverside neighborhoods decreased. When the Great Depression hit New York, many struggling homeless families began to occupy the remaining vacant lots. However, within a decade the entire stretch of East Side property was revitalized under the direction of President Franklin D. Roosevelt (1882-1945) and Mayor Fiorello H. LaGuardia (1882-1947).

Bought in lots between 1934-1938 by the City of New York, this area was drastically transformed through massive re-landscaping, extensive parkway development and the creation of several recreational areas during the first few years of World War II (1939-1945). With the construction of Franklin Delano Roosevelt Drive, set atop landfill comprising rubble from London houses destroyed during the German Blitzkrieg, commuters moved more easily from Queens, Brooklyn, and the Bronx to the heart of Manhattan. During the construction of “The FDR” or “The East River Drive,” the City took the opportunity to develop nearby vacant lots and riverfront property into much needed park space and beautiful riverside promenades. Three pedestrian overpasses also built during the 1940s enable improved access to the waterfront for Manhattan’s East Side communities.

Several parks and playgrounds border the FDR Drive. These include them Carl Schurz Park, named after the Germany revolutionary-turned American citizen, diplomat, Union general, and senator; Cuvallier Park, named after a New York State assemblyman who fought in the Spanish-American War (1898); General Douglas MacArthur Memorial Park, named after the controversial World War II and Korean War general; and Robert Moses Playground, named after the famous urban planner. The Franklin Delano Roosevelt Drive weaves above, around and, in the case of Carl Schurz Park, under the many parks, promenades, and esplanades along its route.

Thursday, Dec 20, 2001

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