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Queens Chronicle

Pavilion not ready for its closeup yet

Ambitious activists and filmmaker need funds to fete borough icon

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Posted: Thursday, March 7, 2013 10:30 am

Queens’ iconic rust bucket may be getting a spit shine and lead role in a movie.

A gang of local fellas and one curious passerby are looking to raise funds for various projects that would rejuvenate the New York State Pavilion and memorialize its unsung champions in a documentary, all in anticipation of the 50th Anniversary of the 1964-65 World’s Fair.

Only one thing stands in their way: funding.

One group is comprised of a crew of World’s Fair aficionados who have spent the last few years trying to undo the telltale signs of neglect scrawled around the entirety of the historic structure. They’ve gone so far as to repaint the red and white stripes on the Pavilion’s rotunda.

They’re planning to get the paint buckets, rollers and brushes out again this spring, after the Parks Department rubbed out splotches of the striped paint from the Pavilion’s interior while trying to remove graffiti from the landmarked structure.

But they’re looking to raise $2,500 through online donations at gofundme.com/1se3vg to fund the supplies needed to do the job. So far, they have raised $370 from nine donations, but are hoping through a bit of attention and good will to get closer to their goal.

The $2,500 goal is a humble estimate of only some of the cost, Pavilion devotee and fundraiser Mitch Silverstein said.

“I don’t think that that would fund the whole project anyway,” he said. “We just wanted to set a realistic goal. We don’t want to scare people away.”

The group plans to get to work when the weather warms up, sometime around April.

The key is actual funds. While volunteers are nice — and many of the donors on the gofundme site ask for a heads-up on painting day — there won’t be enough tools to fill every hand offering help, Silverstein said.

The State Pavilion was hit with an array of over a dozen bubble letters in various colors under the remnants of the “Tent of Tomorrow.” The Parks Department followed through on its promise to remove the graffiti. But now Silverstein, John Piro and several others need to put the stripes back where they belong.

“They basically powerwashed some of the original paint off,” Silverstein said. “That’s the only thing they can do.”

He was quick to add there is no animus against the Parks Department for the work they did. The agency was offered an opportunity to comment for this story, but did not respond as of this writing.

In fact, Silverstein pointed to the on-site staff’s efforts to seal up the interior of the rotunda, so the vandals cannot repeat the crime, adding two more hinges to a gate to close a cap that previously could have allowed someone to squeeze through.

“They’re making a little bit of an effort,” Silverstein said. “The Parks people [in Flushing Meadows] we come across, they really do like the building. They want to take care of it.”

The group’s work is coming on the heels of plans to spruce up the Pavilion ahead of the World’s Fair’s 50th Anniversary. Their efforts might end up on film.

As Silverstein and the gang get to work on the anniversary celebration, Middle Village native and Suffolk County resident Matt Silva is working on a documentary about the Pavilion and its many protectors.

The 27-year-old self-confessed novice filmmaker has undertaken the ambitious task of recounting the story of the Pavilion and its many protectors since the 1965 World’s Fair ended.

His motives are two-pronged: While he admires the efforts of Silverstein and those who came before him, he also wants to register the disrepair that has befallen such an iconic structure while in the city’s hands.

“I’m a little disgusted that the city let an iconic structure and an iconic person’s structure fall into that state,” Silva said.

But he needs a bit of fiscal help, with his own online funding site at gofundme.com/275u6g. The site went live just a week ago and had yet to receive a single donation as of writing.

Silva easily recounts the times he’s driven by the Pavilion, not really knowing what it was. An architecture authority by calling and design teacher by trade, his curiosity caused him to dive right into the icon’s history.

“I don’t have many connections to the Fair,” he said. “I did not grow up with many stories from the Fair. I certainly haven’t done anything regarding any sort of advocacy for Queens, the park, or the Pavilion.”

The fledgling filmmaker has now begun the difficult task of digging into the Pavilion’s activist history, with the likes of famed characters like Frankie Campione and David Oates emerging.

But he needs the funding to move the project along. He has already foot the bill for most of the equipment he needs. His quest to interview all interested parties has him traveling to Chicago and Phoenix.

Silva promises, through sheer willpower, his documentary will be finished in time for the 50th Anniversary celebrations. He hopes the dilapidated state of the Pavilion will come to light and incite a new generation of activists.

“My feeling is just that it’s a tragedy,” he said. “It’s a shame. It’s a disgrace in a way. The structure is an iconic symbol. It’s a natural landmark. It’s a no-brainer, it being like a tourist attraction. And the fact that it’s just neglected.

“And the park, sort of being left behind? It would be an absolute tragedy to let it disintegrate and fade into the past so that future generations can’t enjoy it.”

Welcome to the discussion.