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NYS Pavilion open to public for one day only

TimesLedger Newspapers

The New York State Pavilion will be open to the public for the first time in a generation to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the 1964 World’s Fair April 22 — for one day only.

The iconic venue had been closed off to the public since 1987 but, thanks to the efforts of two self-described history nerds, visitors will once again gain entry between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m.

In 2009, John Piro and Mitch Silverstein began looking after the long-neglected structure as a labor of love.

“I had fond thoughts of the World’s Fair and hated seeing the Pavilion dilapidated,” Silverstein said. “So we cleaned it up and put a coat of paint on it. We’ve been painting it ever since.”

Their efforts led to the formation of a group of a half dozen volunteers known as The Paint Project Crew that has continued to maintain the Pavilion with the permission of the city Parks Department. Parks gave the group the go-ahead to open the North Gate and allow limited access for a public viewing and photograph session.

Interest in the Pavilion gained traction after a sister group called People for the Pavilion held a “history and context” event at the Queens Theater Jan. 25.

“We’ve been advocating for the site’s restoration for the last few years, but it’s really taken off in the last couple of months,” co-founder Salmaan Khan said.

The cause was helped when Melinda Katz became borough president in January. In February, Katz declared that the site of the ’64 World’s Fair, in Flushing Meadows Corona Park, should not be torn down.

“The right direction is to preserve and save this for generations to come, to make it a useful part of the park,” Katz told a group of elected officials, community leaders and Parks Department employees during a walk through of the grounds.

She has revisited the topic in several public appearances since, and Katz formed a preservation task force that meets regularly at Borough Hall to plan the Pavilion’s future.

The Pavilion was designed by architect Philip Johnson and is comprised of three observation towers, the largest of which is 226 feet tall, and a structure known as the Tent of Tomorrow, which has 16 100-foot pillars that at one time supported a 50,000-square-foot roof.

The Pavilion closed down after the World’s Fair and intermittently served as a concert venue, roller skating rink and a movie set. It appeared in “Men in Black” and “The Wiz,” among other films.

On April 22, the curious will be able to get an up-close look. RSVPs are not required and visitors will have to wear hard hats, which will be provided.

“It’s going to be strange seeing humans back in there,” preservationist Khan said. “Most people have never been inside.”

Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparry@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718.260.4538.

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Reader Feedback

Robert Ferrar from Queens - Richmond Hill says:
Will there be an opportunity to go up into the observation "UFO's"?
March 25, 11:33 am
Jim from Manhattan says:
Wow, only open for 3 hours on a Tuesday. Makes it kinda tough to actually go....
March 25, 11:58 am
Mary Ellen from Manhattan says:
How do you get there? It say not RSVPs but I want to make sure I find it!
March 25, 1:08 pm
carole jay from flushing says:
It will be great to have this preserved for future generations~
I was "there" in 1939 as my Mom was pregnant with me. I have the black and white photos, then in 1964 when in my 20's~

To Mary Ellen from Manhattan: Take the #7 Flushing local subway to 111th Street, get off and head North, through the neighborhood. You will see the Science Museum and the Unisphere.
March 26, 10:57 am
Selma from Greenpoint says:
carole jay - Please tell me you're going again
March 31, 12:40 pm
Adam from Jackson Heights says:
Yes, the day and time are inconvenient, but it is an iconic structure, worth the effort to visit and support. Some of my earliest memories are of the 64 fair, and they are fond ones.
Incidentally, the Pavillon can be accessed from either the 111th street or Mets/Willets Point stops on the 7 train, and is actually located south of the station(s). I find the walk from Mets/Willets preferable, passing the two World Fairs time capsule(s), the Unisphere and the Queens Museum of Art (which alas isn't open on Tuesdays). The tree lined pathways are a lovely walk.
March 31, 9:24 pm
Joe from Manhasset says:
Robert: You cant go up the observation towers. The lower 15 -20 feet of zigzag stairwells inside the columns are rusted to the constancy of potato chips haven been exposed to the elements and dripping water for 46 years. (vandals stole all the copper drainage pipe as high as they could reach so the lower parts of the stairwells are really shot)
April 6, 10:05 pm

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