Rescuers target crumbling New York State Pavilion from 1964 World's Fair
Queens and Long Island volunteers are stepping up efforts to save a futuristic symbol of the New York World's Fair as celebrations marking the international exhibition's 50th anniversary are being planned.The 1964-65 fair's gleaming centerpiece -- the towering silver Unisphere -- has been preserved. The volunteers hope to do the same for the New York State Pavilion, which has been shuttered for decades.
The group recently raised $4,000 to give the crumbling pavilion a fresh coat of paint.
A planned unveiling Tuesday between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. will give the public its first opportunity in 27 years to stand among the pavilion's three space-age towers, which featured the fair's highest observation deck, 227 feet in the air.
As a bonus, visitors will also hear recordings from the fair at Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, including musical performances.
"It's like you are really there," said one of the volunteers, John Piro, 65, of Westbury.
The original multicolored fiberglass roof, however, is gone. The giant mosaic floor map of New York, long exposed to the elements, is badly deteriorated.
Restoring the pavilion will cost an estimated $40 million and so far no funding has been secured, Queens Borough President Melinda Katz said.
"Everybody agrees that the pavilion should be saved, but it's just about the money," she said.
The volunteers say the iconic structures shouldn't be allowed to become eyesores destined for the wrecking ball.
The pavilion deserved a fresh coat of paint, said Mitch Silverstein, 55, who grew up in North Massapequa. His parents took him to the fair, sparking an interest in science.
"This is a passion and a love for our past; to support the community and the park," he said of the volunteer work.
The fair ignited the imagination of millions who wanted to feel the future of technology. For visitors who lived nearby, it left a lifelong imprint.
"The atmosphere was beautiful and unbelievable. Your sensory was always on overload. It was just a grand place to be in," Piro recalled.
Piro, who grew up in Astoria and worked at the fair as a busboy, vividly remembers jet-pack fliers swooping around the Unisphere.
The fair "made technology exciting and friendly," he said. "It was a testing ground for the future. You just never ever saw anything like it before."
Silverstein fondly remembers IBM's hands-on exhibit filled with hulking mainframe computers.
"It grew from the 1950s and the nation's race to the moon," he said of the fair's futuristic bent. "It was just a weird place of technology. As a child growing up, being an astronaut just blew your mind."