Three 20-somethings, who were not around for the 1964 World’s Fair in Flushing Meadows Park, are determined that one of the icons from it — the decaying New York State Pavilion — will survive for generations to come.
Salmaan Khan, Matthew Silva and Christian Doran, all longtime fans of the structure, came together last year and have since formed People for the Pavilion. “We don’t have plans for the pavilion’s future, but we want to bring people together with ideas and act as a conduit to the city, architects and planners,” said Silva, who is making a 70-minute documentary on the three observation towers, the Theaterama and the Tent of Tomorrow that comprise the structure.
This year marks the 50th anniversary of the fair, which opened in April 1964.
The preservation group is meeting on Saturday at 2 p.m. at the Queens Theatre, which is the original Theaterama. All are welcome. To RSVP, which is requested but not required, visit nyspavilion.org
Designed by noted architect Philip Johnson at a cost of $12 million, the pavilion featured the circular Tent of Tomorrow, with a $1 million terrazzo floor map of the state, and was used primarily as performance space during the fair. It also had the world’s largest suspension roof, made of colored Plexiglas panels.
Next to the tent was the Theaterama, a cylindrical movie house decorated with what at the time was considered controversial pop art.
The towers had elevators and snack bars at the top of the observation decks.
After the fair closed, the outdoor space was used for public concerts and briefly for roller skating. When the tent’s panels started to fall in the 1970s, the Parks Department said it posed a safety risk, removed the remaining Plexiglas and closed the site.
Preservationists blame the city agency for the floor’s deterioration, saying the ceiling could have been reinforced, preventing decay from the elements.
In November, Parks made a presentation to the Queens Borough Board about possible actions for the pavilion. They included demolishing, stabilizing or redeveloping the structures. The price tags ranged from $25 million for demolition of the towers and tent to $72 million to reuse the tent and one of the towers.
But Silva thinks his group can foster creative uses from the public that could spur the city on with a design competition. “We have no agenda,” he said. “We just want to save the building.”
Silva, a teacher who lives in East Northport, LI, grew up in Astoria and Middle Village before his family moved to Long Island. He remained fascinated by the pavilion, every time he saw it while driving along the Long Island Expressway, but didn’t really know what it was.
Khan is manager of facility planning for the popular High Line elevated park in Manhattan. He grew up in Rego Park, moved to Port Washington and now lives in Brooklyn. “We are just trying to raise awareness about the pavilion,” Khan said. “It’s been an obsession with me since I was very young.”
The third in the trio is Doran, who lives in Maspeth and works for the Queens Theatre. Silva met him while making his documentary, which he hopes to unveil in October.
The filmmaker plans to start a one-month Kickstarter campaign to raise money to complete the movie. For more information, contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Coincidentally, the Parks Department is holding two listening sessions for the public about the pavilion, on Sunday at 1 p.m. and Tuesday at 10 a.m. at the Queens Theatre. Officials will also discuss recent structural studies of the pavilion.