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I am old enough to have attended both the 1939-40 and 1964-65 World’s Fairs in the city. The 1939 fair was remarkable with its Trylon and Perisphere and the General Motors, Ford, General Electric, Firestone Tire and Rubber, Petroleum Institute and other pavilions were interesting, informative and exciting. The 1964 fair, except for the Unisphere and Michelangelo’s “Pieta,” was dull and mundane as were the individual structures.
The state Board of Historic Preservation recently voted to award the remnants of the New York state Pavilion from the 1964 fair historic designation. TimesLedger Newspapers welcomed that designation in an editorial (“Worth Preserving,” Sept. 24).
But I do not share TimesLedger’s elation. There are four criteria which must be met before a structure can be included in the state and National Register of Historic Places:
1. There must be an association with historic people. The last I heard, George Washington never slept in the Pavilion.
2. It is doubtful, given the fact there have been many World’s Fairs and particularly two in the city, there exists any evidence the 1964 fair was anything special or unique that would qualify it as a historic event.
3. There was never anything distinct about the Pavilion to begin with and I suspect it was one of architect Philip Johnson’s less successful efforts. I doubt there exists an architectural consensus to support any claim of distinction. The passage of over 50 years has resulted in a pile of rust unworthy of the expenditure of large sums of money. It should be laid to rest and the area grassed over.
4. The only things an archaeological dig would uncover would be the remnants of the original site as a garbage dump.
While I was never impressed with the Pavilion and there was nothing outstanding about it in the context of the fair, it was a structure that could legitimately be considered appropriate for a fair. But like the vast majority of the other structures, there is no justification for it to remain in the park. It is a structure alien to an urban park and should have been removed decades ago.
The legitimate question raised is why the designation? I do not think it was the result of a high level of professionalism nor did it meet the four criteria. Like all things in Flushing Meadows Corona Park, it was the result of the ongoing virus of political malfeasance that has besotted the park with a host of non-park structures that would not and should not be permitted in any other municipal park.
It is suggested state Sen. Toby Stavisky (D-Whitestone) was an instrumental supporter. This is absurd given the fact she has never done a thing constructive for the park and, if memory serves me correctly, she supported a huge New York Jets football stadium in the middle of the park, something that would have ended this as a viable public park. Her lack of understanding of the importance of Flushing Meadows as an urban park requiring passivity, not steel and cement, disqualifies her from any say in the park’s management.
To award this rusted hulk a historic designation and permit it to remain in the park has no justification.
Benjamin M. Haber
©2009 Community Newspaper Group
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