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Pavilion still holds significance 50 years later

Photo by Brandon Jordan
Photo by Brandon Jordan

The New York State Pavilion is a recognizable landmark in Flushing-Meadows Corona Park in Queens.

However, its presence drew debate on what should be done to the site with solutions ranging from demolition to re-investment.

Constructed for the 1964-1965 New York World’s Fair, the Pavilion includes different structures like the Observation Towers. The towers are three large structures, which were a major plot device in the 1997 film “Men in Black” starring Tommy Lee Jones and Will Smith.

“Looming over the New York State Pavilion are three observation towers, one of which is the tallest structure at the Fair — 226 feet. Beneath the towers is the Tent of Tomorrow, the world’s biggest suspension roof — it is larger than a football field — supported by sixteen 100-foot concrete columns. Translucent colored panels in the roof flood the interior of the tent with colors,” the 1964 Official Guide Book to the World’s Fair said.

Angela Bachan-Khan, a QC student majoring in accounting and economics, is involved with the People for the Pavilion project. The PFP is a group defending the project instead of the original idea to demolish it.

She first heard of the organization last semester when they held an event on campus.

“Currently, the Pavilion got a paint job by volunteers and it is being used as an attraction in celebrating the 50th anniversary of the World’s Fair. The group has grown by leaps which are an indication of how much interest there is. I do believe that now that [Queens] Borough President Melinda Katz is supporting the project, there will a better chance that the pavilion will be refurbished and made functional for the people,” Bachan-Khan said.

In 2009, the National Register of Historic Places, which is a part of the Department of the Interior, listed the New York State Pavilion as a historic place. The NRHP’s role is to “coordinate and support public private efforts to identify, evaluate and protect America’s historic and archeological resources,” according to their website.

Matthew Silva, one of the co-founders for PFP, explained how he sought out to do a documentary. By doing so, he was able to meet Christian Doran and, eventually, Salmaan Khan to create the organization.

“I think the building is an iconic symbol of Queens. The building serves a geographical marker and nothing else. They see it and they’re back in Queens. It’s become such a backdrop that it’s a part of peoples’ lives,” Silva said.

For the past few months, PFP was able to get support from groups like the New York Mets. The Mets will play a game on Aug. 1 against the San Francisco Giants with portions of ticket sales funding financial support for the Pavilion.

To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Pavilion, more than 5,000 attended the opening of the Tent of Tomorrow on April 22. Attendees included Melinda Katz and people who were children when it first opened in 1964.

Bachan-Khan viewed it as a part of the draw the Pavilion had for people in the Queens community.

“Because people remembered the fair, some are interested in history and buildings and some came because of the success of the group in raising awareness,” Bachan-Khan said.

Silva stated a significant challenge was getting the “necessary funds” to help fund a potential plan. However, he noted the event was significant in their journey so far.

“One thing that stuck out was the April 22 event where estimates of 5,000 people came out on Tuesday. What that showed me was there are a lot of people who care and want it to turn into something they could access and utilize,” Silva said.

Brandon Jordan

Brandon is a senior majoring in Political Science and Economics with a minor in Business And Liberal Arts. He covers labor and activism at CUNY. He also likes to cook, bake, run and make puns, sometimes not in that order. You can follow him on Twitter @BrandonJ_R and email him at brandon[at]theknightnews.com.

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