Group kicks off drive to save NYS Pavilion

Group kicks off drive to save NYS Pavilion
Photo courtesy People for the Pavilion
By Alex Robinson

A new organization held its first event Saturday to kick off its campaign to preserve the New York State Pavilion.

More than 200 people braved the winter storm last weekend to attend People for the Pavilion’s first event, the group’s organizers said.

“The meeting was a hit,” said Matthew Silva, one of People for the Pavilion’s co-founders. “We want to bring in as many local groups as possible to create this coalition to preserve the building.”

The Pavilion opened in 1964 for the World’s fair before serving as a concert venue for a number of bands in the 1960s. It was later used as a roller skating rink and a movie set, appearing in “Men in Black” and “The Wiz.” The People for the Pavilion hope to turn the structure, which has sat vacant for years, into a public space that can be used by the community.

The group’s event started with an introduction of the members of People for the Pavilion, who then presented a brief history of the building. The organization then held a question-and-answer session that allowed people to share their thoughts as to what should be done with the historic structure that has sat empty for years.

A number of community groups attended the meeting, along with the New York Landmarks Conservancy and a representative for Queens Borough President Melinda Katz.

Silva said People for the Pavilion is now planning its program for 2014, which will include starting a public awareness campaign to show what the Pavilion once was and what it could be.

The Parks Department held its own brainstorming session Sunday to get the public’s input as to what should happen to the structure. Parks officials recently released estimates that it would cost $14 million to demolish the Pavilion and more than $50 million to completely restore it.

Silva said Sunday’s session was positive and attendees were overwhelmingly in favour of preserving it.

One of the ideas that came out of the meeting was to repaint the Pavilion and to hang lights on it to change the public’s perception of the building.

“Change the image from it as blight to something that is beautiful and could be a community asset,” Silva said.

Silva also launched a Kickstarter campaign this weekend to raise funds to finish his documentary, “Modern Ruin: A World’s Fair Pavilion,” which will chronicle the history of the Pavilion.

“It will hopefully demystify what the building is and was and answer a lot of people’s questions as to what the NYS pavilion has been over the last 50 years,” he said.

Those wishing to pledge money to Silva’s film can do so at https://kck.st/LVOLWu

Reach reporter Alex Robinson by e-mail at arobinson@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4566.

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