NYC Parks breaks ground on $24 million project to preserve the World’s Fair Pavilion towers

DA5_0350_110819 FMCP Pavilion GB
Courtesy of Daniel Avila/NYC Parks

There was quite a buzz back in July 2015 when the International Union of Painting and Allied Trades voluntarily used apprentices to repaint the crown of the New York State Pavilion in its original “American Cheese” yellow paint. Not much has happened since at old World’s Fair site in Flushing Meadows Corona Park, but that is about to change.

The city’s Parks Department, Queens Borough President Melinda Katz and community leaders joined members of the People for the Pavilion, Flushing Meadows Corona Park Conservancy and Alliance for Flushing Meadows Corona Park to break ground on the reconstruction of the New York Pavilion Observation Towers Friday morning.

“The work we’re breaking ground on today will go a long way towards restoring the iconic New York State Pavilion to its former glory,” Katz said.

The Pavilion was designed by architect Philip Johnson ad is comprised of three observation towers, the largest of which is 226 feet, and the circular structure that was known as the Tent of Tomorrow, which has 16 100-foot pillars that at one time supported a 50,000-square-foot roof.

“This work will enable future generations to continue to enjoy the Pavilion’s distinctive Space Age architecture and be reminded about the important role the 1964-65 World’s Fair played in Queens history,” Katz said. “It has been a privilege to work with our partners in government to preserve the Pavilion.”

The Parks Department released estimates in 2014 that it would cost $14 million to demolish the historic structure which was in a state of disrepair. Katz declared that it should not be demolished and the $14 million would be better spent as a base in the preservation initiative.

The $24 million project will preserve the structure, reconstruct stairwells and add architectural lighting. Work will include waterproofing the tower bases, restore suspension cables, and add electrical upgrades. The renovation is funded by a $24 million allocation, with $13.1 million from Katz, $9 million from Mayor Bill de Blasio and $1.9 million from Councilman Francisco Moya.

Architectural lighting rendering of the New York State Pavilion. (Via Silman)

“The New York State Pavilion is an iconic symbol of the 1964 World’s Fair that keeps us connected to our city’s rich history,” NYC Parks Commissioner Mitchell J. Silver said. “We are excited to restore this historic structure for the enjoyment of New Yorkers and visitors thanks to funding from Borough President Katz, Mayor de Blasio and Council member Moya, this treasured landmark will continue to serve as a symbol of Queens for generations to come.”

The revitalization project will not give visitors the ability to access the observation towers. There would need to be further investment in the integrity of the structure before it would be safe for public access.

The project is expected to be completed by March 2021.