Opening Day Speech by John D. Rockefeller, Jr.

Opening of Fort Tryon Park, New York

Address given by Mr. Rockefeller, Jr. on Oct. 12, 1935

Mr. Chairman, Your Honor Mayor LaGuardia, guests, and friends:

It gives me the greatest pleasure and satisfaction to know that from this day forth and for all time Fort Tryon Park will be available for the enjoyment, the recreation, and the health of the people of this city in which I have lived with them as neighbor and friend since early childhood. No place on Manhattan Island offers so much of natural beauty as this area. For nearly fifty years I have known and loved it. Almost twenty years have lapsed since I acquired the property with the sole purpose of making it a public park. It has been held ever since, pending the time when that purpose could best be carried out.

And now as my dream is about to be realized, I am hoping two things. First, that this spot whose natural beauty has only been enhanced by the hand of man, may in the years to come bring as great happiness to you, the people of New York, as it has brought to me during the many years that have passed. Secondly, that you will cherish and preserve it with the same brooding care and untiring interest which has made it what it is today.

Too often we Americans, carried away with the freedom of thought and action in which we have long gloried, fail to distinguish between liberty on the one hand, a priceless possession, and license on the other hand, an individual and social menace. He who thoughtlessly picks blossoms in a public park, tramples the grass in protected areas, makes short-cut paths where adequate walks are provided, leaves newspapers and other litter on the greensward, may think, if he thinks at all, that he is thereby asserting his liberty. What he is really doing is depriving other people of their liberty to enjoy unmarred, the common privileges which the parks offer to all. These privileges can only be preserved for the common enjoyment when each uses his liberty with due regard for the rights to all.

What a wonderful thing it would be, Mr. Chairman, and what a help to you in your administration of the parks of the city, if the people of this community, who will be the most frequent users of this park, should form themselves into an Organization for the Protection and Preservation of Fort Tryon Park. Grown-ups and children alike would have a part in such an organization, which could easily make this park an inspiring example of how a park can be used and enjoyed to the full without the perfection of its beauty being marred. Here is a challenge to every man, woman, and child in this community. Here is an opportunity to take the lead in a much-needed popular crusade in the interest of terminating the thoughtless abuse and teaching the right use of our parks.

And now, with the fullest confidence in the informed public opinion of the people of this city, I am happy to turn Fort Tryon Park over to their use, enjoyment, and protection.