Envisioning tomorrow for the Tent of Tomorrow
by Michael Perlman
Jan 29, 2014 | 7591 views | 0 0 comments | 127 127 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The 50th anniversary of the 1964 World’s Fair in Flushing Meadows Corona Park is nearly three months away, but the iconic New York State Pavilion, which could be celebrated as one of Queens’ most cherished sites, exhibits weathered architectural elements behind fenced-off perimeters.

People For The Pavilion, an organization led by Matthew Silva, Christian Doran, and Salmaan Khan, held the first of several public discussion about the possible future of the Pavilion this past weekend at Queens Theatre in the Park.

The event attracted an audience of over 200.

The organization is dedicated to the preservation of the Pavilion, and sees its value as a piece of New York City history and potential as a vibrant community space.

The Parks Department in December released the costs of several options for the Pavilion, including restoring it for new uses ($72 million), stabilizing it as a ruin ($43 million), or demolishing it ($14 million).

The panel on Saturday expressed its mission of securing city landmark status for the Pavilion as one of the first steps, and The New York Landmarks Conservancy collaborated with People For The Pavilion to help accomplish that.

Conservancy director of Development Scott Leurquin referred to the Pavilion as the fair’s architectural star.

“The conservancy urges the Parks Department and elected officials to work together to make sure that the site is properly repaired and reopened to the public,” Leurquin said. “Adaptive reuse is not only feasible, but can lend itself to a host of activities.”

Film historian Tom Stathes envisions bringing his "New York Cartoon Carnival" to the Pavilion.

“I showcase my early animation series mostly in Brooklyn, and would love to have more local spaces such as the Pavilion available for some of my outdoor screenings,” he said. “I'd be more than willing to coordinate a fundraiser as part of my series with the group seeking to preserve this important structure.”

Friends Michael Torre and Mary Rose Kaddo visualize live music and a beer garden at the Tent of Tomorrow during the milder months.

“Queens’ main political leaders need to care about landmarking,” said Torre. “This is an accessible world-class site, which should bring a positive attitude to our borough.”

Howard Fein felt very encouraged by the event’s turnout.

“It shows that people really care,” he said. “The site has an emotional connection to those who remember it as the Pavilion, and its unique architecture has captured the imagination of those too young to remember the 1964 World’s Fair.”

Meanwhile, to document the Pavilion's history and potential, Silva, a technology and video production teacher, began work on a film titled Modern Ruin: A World’s Fair Pavilion.

It will feature interviews with fairgoers, operators, and architects. The trailer has been released, and Silva is now raising funds through Kickstarter to see it through.

Famed architect Philip Johnson designed the New York State Pavilion. It includes the Tent of Tomorrow, which exhibited the world’s largest multi-colored plexiglass suspension roof and a terrazzo Texaco road map of New York State.

After the fair, it was a concert venue that once hosted Led Zeppelin, as well as a roller-skating rink. The Pavilion was featured prominently in the movie Men in Black.

“When I look out from the Queens College library, I see the Pavilion’s blinking light and remember my childhood,” said Enzo Longo, who envisions a future as a public venue for discovering cultures and new technologies. “Almost everyone in Queens is either an immigrant or a descendent that can connect with the World Fair's theme.”

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