The capital budget passed by the City Council early this morning includes $5.806 million for upgrading the aging New York State Pavilion, the crown jewel of the 1964-65 World’s Fair.
Borough President Melinda Katz, a staunch advocate of restoring the rusting Tent of Tomorrow and Observation Towers, issued a statement in which she expressed her gratitude to the city for recognizing the iconic nature of the pavilion and its importance to the borough’s image.
“Along with the nearby Unisphere, the New York State Pavilion has become a symbol of the borough of Queens that reminds us of the excitement and hopefulness the world felt at the beginning of the Space Age,” Katz said. “The pavilion keeps us connected to that history, while it also serves as an icon of Queens that is recognized around the world. It’s preservation will aid our efforts to rebrand Queens as a top-level tourist destination that we call ‘The World’s Borough.’”
According to Katz, the $5.806 million will be used to upgrade the pavilion’s electrical system, rebuild the staircases inside the Observation Towers and repair the concrete platforms supporting the observation decks at the top of each of the three towers.
About $4.2 million is provided by Mayor de Blasio, while $628,000 comes from the City Council and the remaining $979,000 comes from Katz.
The $5.806 million is a far cry from the estimated $72 million it would cost to completely restore and reuse the pavilion, according to studies presented by Parks Department representatives at a meeting of the Borough Board last November.
Additionally, the cost of restoring just the Observation Towers was estimated at around $20 million while doing such with the Tent of Tomorrow may cost upwards of $31 million.
Demolishing the entire pavilion was estimated at $14.6 million.
The pavilion cost $12 million to build in preparation for the 1964-65 World’s Fair.
In April, the National Trust for Historic Preservation designated the pavilion as a “National Treasure,” recognizing the structure as historically, culturally and architecturally significant.
Peg Breen, the organization’s president, said in a statement that this year, the 50th anniversary of the World’s Fair, is the perfect time to act on restoring the pavilion.
“We agree with the Borough President that the restored pavilion will be a wonderful representation of the vitality of the borough,” she said, “and provide a space for all kinds of events that will draw, not just people from Queens, but from people all around the city and visitors from around the world.”
After touring the pavilion in early February, Katz officially declared her intent to save the structures and created a task force aimed at gathering ideas for their reuse.
The task force is made up of area elected officials and People for the Pavilion, a preservation group, founded last year, headed by activists Salmaan Khan and Matthew Silva.