The New York State Pavilion is now 50 years old, and for far too many of those years the iconic Tent of Tomorrow and Observation Towers from the 1964-65 World’s Fair have been left to pretty much just rot away.
But with the fair’s anniversary around the corner, the push has been on to restore the landmark buildings, and last week that push got verbal support from a key player, Queens Borough President Melinda Katz.
We sincerely hope Katz follows through on her promise to do all she can to save these buildings, which should be the pride of Queens but need major restoration.
Imagine if they once again became attractions, bringing in revenue that could help maintain and upgrade their home, Flushing Meadows Corona Park. It’s a dream many have had, but maybe Katz is just the one who can pull it off. She’s smart, she’s tough, she’s got connections and she can sell her ideas to people — witness her landslide election victory.
It would cost tens of millions of dollars to restore and repurpose the pavilion. Katz says it’s worth it, and we agree — though of course the devil’s in the details. We need a plan.
We also think it would be a brilliant move for her politically. Probably the biggest criticism of our new borough president is that as a councilwoman, she was too close to developers and too disdainful of historic preservation. If she could save the pavilion, it would be such a victory for Queens that it would blunt any past anti-preservation actions as an issue. As one longtime critic said, if she got it done, “I would take back everything bad I ever said about her.”
The only feasible way to pay for restoring the pavilion would be to get private interests to cover most or all of the cost, with the promise of future profits from whatever attractions are established there. Given its location and promise, that should be possible. We just need a plan.
To our friends who say the park should not be commercialized, who bravely stood with us against last year’s awful, ultimately defeated soccer stadium proposal, we say the difference at the pavilion is that the structures are already there. We’re not advocating building but restoring and preserving — just what Queens needs more of. Let’s do it.
Lastly, this editorial would not be complete without us extending our deepest condolences to the family and friends of Christian Doran of Maspeth, one of the biggest backers of preserving the pavilion. Doran died Saturday at age 28 of an asthma attack, and he will be missed by many, including us.