BY DANIEL OFFNER
It has been 50 long years since Queens, the aptly-dubbed “World’s Borough,” played host to the 1964-65 World’s Fair at Flushing Meadows-Corona Park.
Now, five decades later, New York City Parks Commissioner Mitchell Silver joined local elected officials and community leaders, on Wednesday, to announce plans to repaint and restore the “Tent of Tomorrow,” a one-of-a-kind structure that is emblematic of the Borough.
“The Tent of Tomorrow is an iconic symbol of Queens,” Silver said. “It’s a highly visible structure that you can see on both sides of the Grand Central Parkway and Long Island Expressway, but we haven’t been able to give it the treatment it deserves until now.”
Through an in-kind donation from the New York Structural Steel Painting Contractors Association and the International Union of Painting and Allied Trades Local 806, District Council No. 9, the $3 million project will be completed on a pro-bono basis, Silver said. In turn, the work will be completed through an apprenticeship training program for new painters.
“Four years we’ve been trying to get this project underway,” Joe Ramaglia, business manager for the International Painters Union, said. “We’re very excited to finally get to this point. It has been an eyesore for a long time.”
Designed by architect Philip Johnson, the “Tent of Tomorrow” was constructed as a symbol of the 1964 World’s Fair. But, after being left abandoned and neglected for decades, the structure has been in a continued state of disrepair, which led some to consider demolition.
“When I came into office, they were talking about spending $15 million to knock down the New York State Pavilion,” Queens Borough President Melinda Katz said. “Within two weeks we had hundreds of people here in the park, and on that day we saved the Pavilion.”
Despite being the cheapest of three options for the decaying structure, Katz had no intention of tearing it down. According to the Parks Department, it would cost the Borough approximately $52.1 million if they were to try and restore the Pavilion to its former glory – how it looked back in the 60s – or $72.6 million if they were to try and modernize it.
“With 130 languages spoken in the New York City public school system, hailing from 120 countries,” Katz said,“We live the World’s Fair every single day here in Queens and this is an iconic structure that represents that.”
Earlier this year, Katz allocated $5.8 million in City funding to work on restoring the Pavilion – a priority for her administration. As part of the project, the park performed two test runs of the LED display lights, earlier this year, which briefly illuminated the towers and their observation decks.
Parks officials said the beautification of the Tent of Tomorrow will begin immediately and is expected to be complete this fall.
Reach Daniel Offner at (718) 357-7400, Ext. 125, firstname.lastname@example.org, or @DanielOffner.