They were built for the 1964 and ’65 New York World’s Fair as a symbol of hope and the future, but for decades, they came to represent decay.
“Every single time we would pass Flushing Meadow Park, my father would take a look at the New York State Pavilion and he would say, ‘Isn’t that a shame?'” Queens borough President Melinda Katz said.
For years, the structures crumbled, known only to a younger generation as urban ruins seen in the “Men In Black” movies.
Demolition was considered.
“We have been begging our elected officials and anybody who will listen, please, please don’t tear these down. Please help us rebuild them,” said Kim O’Hanian, Queens Community Board 7 Parks Chair.
Now, that’s happening with a groundbreaking on the $24 million city-funded restoration of the historic towers and New York State Pavilion with structural repairs and colored architectural lighting.
The tower, once a thrilling observation deck, the pavilion with its colorful top housed a grand mosaic map of New York State. They matter to volunteers who have been painting the pavilion for years, like Mitch Silverstein, Gary Miller and Jim Brown.
“The Vietnam War and President Kennedy, just before this, it was turmoil at the beginning of the ’60s. When the fair came along, it gave everybody hope,” Silverstein said.
“If you can imagine this park with 200-300 buildings on it, representing states and countries and corporate pavilions and lots of rides and great food to eat,” Miller said.
“A watershed of technology and production,” Brown said.
And now, a younger generation is eager to see the old relics repurposed.
“They are emblems of the entire borough, so they should be full of life,” said Tim McGeever, of People for the Pavilion.
The restoration will only make the towers and pavilion look better. They won’t be open for use.
But supporters have hopes for the world of tomorrow. They’d like to see an observation deck and restaurant up there again one day.