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Queens Chronicle

Plumes of water return to Unisphere

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Posted: Thursday, August 19, 2010 12:00 am

After years of on-again, off-again usage — mostly off — the fountain surrounding the iconic Unisphere returned to its former glory on Thursday with a rush of water around the globe’s perimeter.

Built in 1964 as an enhancement for the Unisphere, the symbol of the World’s Fair, the fountain’s plumbing has been problematic over the years. Now, after almost a year of restoration work, at a cost of nearly $2 million, the jets were turned on Thursday morning in Flushing Meadows Park.

Parks Department officials and area elected officials held a ceremony to celebrate with a little rain thrown in by Mother Nature for atmosphere.

The project primarily involved restoring the pipes and pumps and fixing the fountain heads. In the past, water leaked into the nearby Queens Museum of Art when the fountain was turned on for any length of time.

Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe said the work was a “technically demanding job” that cost about the same as the price to construct the Unisphere. “That was a lot of money in 1964,” Benepe added.

In the last few years, the fountain has only been turned on sporadically, partly as a water conservation measure, but primarily due to the leaking. Queens Parks Commissioner Dorothy Lewandowski said the rebuilt piping will allow the water to recirculate and to be chlorinated.

“We will be able to leave it on until 10 p.m. every night until early fall,” Lewandowski said, but warned visitors that the fountain is only for looking. “Signs will be going up soon telling people not to go in the fountain.”

For the opening day ceremony, guests were treated to Belgian waffles from a cart, a popular treat from the 1964 World’s Fair. Lewandowski is hoping to get a concessionaire in the future to operate out of Flushing Meadows.

According to the “Official Guide, New York World’s Fair, 1964/1965,” the Unisphere’s circle of water was originally called the Fountain of the Continents. Standing at the edge of the pool shows the world as it appears from 6,000 miles in space.

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