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Queens Chronicle

SAVE THIS ICON People for the Pavilion kicks off its campaign

The preservation group promotes its plan to save the rusting structures

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Posted: Thursday, January 30, 2014 10:30 am | Updated: 2:13 pm, Mon Feb 10, 2014.

The official campaign to save the icon of the 1964-65 World’s Fair has begun.

A three-man preservation group, known as People for the Pavilion, hosted a meeting on Saturday at the Queens Theatre in Flushing Meadows Corona Park, in the shadow of the Tent of Tomorrow and the Observation Towers, the buildings the group aims to preserve.

The trio made up of new-found partners Salmaan Khan, Matthew Silva and Christian Doran stood onstage in front of around 100 people and gave an approximately 30-minute presentation on the history of the rusting structures and what the group plans to do to help raise awareness to preserve them.

A lengthy question-and-answer segment followed the presentation.

While the group seeks a long-term program for the structures’ reuse to the community as a place of recreation, the theme of the meeting was what can be done now to bring awareness to the group’s plans.

“We are hoping to preserve the 1964 World’s Fair New York State Pavilion and to develop a sustainable reuse plan to transform the site into a vibrant, community space that will serve Flushing Meadows and the New York City community,” Khan, who didn’t meet his partners until last October, said in the group’s presentation. “For the next year or two, we are focusing primarily on the first part of this, the preservation of the pavilion.”

During the presentation, the group went into great detail to describe the multitude of events that it would like to see occur in the coming months to celebrate the World’s Fair’s 50th anniversary in April.

Khan, the Rego Park-born facility planning manager for Manhattan’s High Line park, believes “there is no magic bullet for saving the Pavilion,” but he feels that if enough awareness is raised, the group might be successful in petitioning the city to preserve the structures.

“The first step in creating awareness is landmarking. We want to move forward and push for the landmarking of the building,” he said. “The second step is public programs. What we want to do between April and October when the fair took place is to organize 50th anniversary events like panel discussions, walking tours, educational programs and so on.”

Additionally, People for the Pavilion put out a call for help to volunteers who may be able to aid the group in various aspects of preservation.

“We need a lot of help with various things,” Silva said. “The three of us are incredibly intelligent, handsome young men. We cannot do all of these things alone.”

The first area where Silva, a teacher in East Northport, LI, who was raised in Astoria and Middle Village, asked for help was in filling out paperwork to incorporate the group as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.

The group is also seeking volunteers who can help with nonprofit management, historical preservation and knowledge, walking tours and community outreach.

According to Silva, who is also creating a documentary about the pavilion’s history that will be released in the fall, it’s all in the name of rousing as many supporters for the group as possible.

“Most importantly, we’re looking to connect with as many organizations, local, citywide and national, as we can to shed a light on what we’re doing,” he said. “We want to connect with people and create awareness about what we’re trying to do.”

After the slide show presentation, the trio fielded questions from the crowd about topics ranging from whether the City Council will hear the group’s proposed plans to whether the structures are in immediate danger of collapsing.

While People for the Pavilion expressed confidence in gaining the support of elected officials and civic leaders over time, Assemblyman Michael Simanowitz (D-Flushing) is already a believer in the structures and the group trying to save them.

“I support them, I agree with their platform thus far,” Simanowitz said Monday. “I would absolutely love to see the pavilion restored to its former glory.

“It’s part of the charm of the district,” he continued. “It’s a part of history and it’s certainly part of the character of the park.”

Simanowitz said he has been trying to drum up support for restoring the structure in Borough President Melinda Katz’s office.

“I’ve had conversations with her already. I believe we are on the same page. We’d like to see the pavilion restored,” he said. “At the end of the day, it’s a question of dollars and cents.”

Any restoration project will cost between $20.5 million and $72 million, according to figures outlined by the Parks Department at a November meeting of the Queens Borough Board.

Katz is considering the various options for the Pavilion, listening to her constituents and reviewing the costs of different proposals, according to her spokesman, Michael Scholl.

But former Deputy Borough President Barry Grodenchik did attend the meeting at the new borough president’s request.

Even though Grodenchik said he was there to “just listen,” he did briefly speak to the crowd to say the borough president is keeping tabs on the issue.

“She wants me to stay on top of it,” Grodenchik said after the session.

Silva was thrilled with the outpouring of support from the attendees of the meeting, and he believes it was a fantastic way to get the ball rolling on the path toward preserving the Pavilion.

“It went so well,” he said. “Today was a dream.”

Welcome to the discussion.