Saving a ‘Modern Ruin’

Workers undertake the monumental effort of repainting the iconic red and white stripes on the pavilion.
Workers undertake the monumental effort of repainting the iconic red and white stripes on the pavilion.

It’s been 50 years since eager-eyed fair go’ers flocked to the 1964 World’s Fair in the middle of Queens to see the “Tent of Tomorrow,” also known as the New York World’s Fair Pavilion. In the half-century since the fair closed, the structure has seen life briefly as a skating rink, but has for most of the time been left to decay. But the magic of the 1964-65 World’s Fair never left former Queens resident John Piro who has a personal connection with the event. “In 1964, I worked in the Worlds Fair and in 1965, my band played in the Pavilion. It’s a great time of your life and it always stayed with me,” he says. “I would come down to the park and see the building deteriorating and I told my wife, you know what? Maybe I could do something.”

John Piro organized the New York State Pavilion Paint Project with friend, Mitch Silverstein.
John Piro organized the New York State Pavilion Paint Project with friend, Mitch Silverstein.

Since then, John Piro and a growing number of volunteers have spent countless Saturdays at the site repainting the red and white stripes on the lower wall of the Pavilion. It’s all part of The New York Pavilion Paint Project, organized by John and his friend, Mitch Silverstein in 2009. All of the money for the project, about $3,500, has come from small donations and out of their own pockets. Their efforts will be shown off on April 22, which is the 50th anniversary of the start of the 1964 World’s Fair, when the doors of the Pavilion will be opened once more to the public. However, this time the public will have to wear hard-hats. There will be limited to the general public to access to view and take pictures of the site. The volunteers are hoping to raise awareness of the structure and to create more fund-raising interest. Mr. Piro feels that if people are given a chance to come in and see the beauty of the structure, they will want help with efforts to save this modern ruin. Ultimately, Piro and Silverstein would like to see a complete restoration and redesign of the building that would house restaurants, galleries and other businesses.

A volunteer patiently restores the detail paint of the New York State Pavilion.
A volunteer patiently restores the detail paint of the New York State Pavilion.

Their best efforts will not be enough, however, to restore the iconic building to its former glory. According to the NY Parks and Recreation Department, it would cost an estimated 72 million dollars to restore the pavilion and its attached towers. Much of that cost would be spent to make the Pavilion and its towers safe for occupancy. There are currently no plans by the Parks Department to either develop or tear down buildings.

Watch the Wall Street Journal video.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s