Nov. 11, 2019 By Michael Dorgan
Elected officials held a ground-breaking ceremony on Friday to mark the beginning of a $24 million overhaul to preserve the three observation towers that are part of the New York State Pavilion.
The three towers look over the “Tent of Tomorrow,” the centerpiece of the Pavilion, which consists of a massive ring of steel and reinforced concrete. The Pavilion was built in Flushing Meadows Corona Park as part of the 1964/65 World’s Fair.
The towers–measuring 60 feet, 150 feet and 226 feet respectively—have fallen into disrepair and the city aims to preserve them. The $24 million budget is being used to waterproof the tower bases, replace the stairs and ensure their structural integrity. The project also involves electrical work, including the addition of dynamic architectural lighting.
“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,” said Queens Borough President Melinda Katz.
The revamp is expected to be completed by the spring of 2021 and represents the first major effort to preserve the towers since the Fair.
The work, however, will not result in public access to them until further investment is made. When the observation towers first opened, the two shorter towers included cafeterias while the tallest tower held an observation deck.
The observation deck was the tallest point of the fair and provided spectacular views over the Tent of Tomorrow which measures 350 feet by 250 feet, with sixteen 100-foot columns suspending a 50,000 square-foot roof of multi-colored panels.
The pavilion was supposed to have been taken down after the World’s Fair but wasn’t due to high cost to dismantle it. There have been calls over the years for it to be demolished. However, preservationists called for it to remain.
“We are excited to restore this historic structure for the enjoyment of New Yorkers and visitors,” said NYC Parks Commissioner Mitchell J. Silver.
“This treasured landmark will continue to serve as a symbol of Queens for generations to come,” he added.
The World’s Fair attracted more than 50 million people and its theme of “Peace Through Understanding,” was dedicated to “Man’s Achievement on a Shrinking Globe in an Expanding Universe.”
It was also symbolized by the Unisphere, the 12-story-high, stainless-steel model of the earth that remains a New York City icon.
The revitalization work is funded by a $13.1 million allocation from Queens Borough President Melinda Katz, $9 million from Mayor Bill de Blasio, and $1.9 million from Council Member Francisco Moya.