By Alex Distefano
By Scott Snowden
By Anna Merlan
By Steve Almond
By Jena Ardell
By Jon Campbell
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Tessa Stuart
From his apartment over a garage in Huntington Station, store clerk Ricardo Alcos sees a Long Island where the car is not king, where single people have housing choices, where children are perhaps seen but not heard or at least just not so damn loud.
If Alcos' dream ever became a reality, you would see his vision of paradise rise on the grounds of Republic Airport, a permanent World's Fair hard by the sprawl of the Route 110 corridor.
"Long Island was never built by design," says Alcos, 66, who grew up in the South Bronx and East Harlem and moved with his family to Levittown in 1948. "Long Island just kept developing. The only centers are the political centers Mineola and Hauppauge. This would provide a center. It gives Long Island an image, which it doesn't have. Beaches, the Hamptons, the Big Duck these are not the images that draw people to Long Island on a year-round basis."
Alcos has reduced part of his plan for turning Farmingdale into the center of the universe to a 36-inch by 24-inch drawing, now faded, that hangs on a wall in his living room. A giant gleaming Trylon and Perisphere, a nod to the symbolic center of the 1939-40 "World of Tomorrow" Fair at Flushing Meadows, would dominate. A huge geodesic dome housing Long Island's singles population, a state-of-the-art performing arts center, and a pavilion court with exhibits showcasing the nations and corporations of the world would signal the hopes of a new millennium. All of the buildings, save the Trylon and Perisphere, would be under glass domes to beat the weather.
"The whole thing would be a community on view, if you will," Alcos says. "It would have apartments that focus on housing for single people. Long Island has never had that. I knew what I wanted to do from the very beginning."
The man who would bring the world to Long Island works as a clerk at Your Move chess and games store in Huntington Station, though he doesn't play the game. He spent the '60s and '70s in California, with one spell working as a cook and server at the Esalen Institute in Big Sur, before moving back to the Island to take care of his infirm mother. "Back in '73, I was living in San Francisco and everything appeared to me in just a few minutes. But it took about 10 years to develop."
Alcos says his idea for the community, culled from Buckminster Fuller's prototype dreams of the '40s, shouldn't be confused with commercial amusements like EPCOT.
"I distance myself from anything Disney does," he says. "Reducing everything to a child's viewpoint I don't share that." Plus, he adds, "I don't really like the phrase 'community of the future.' It says 'not now.' But it really is now. If you don't get it together now, you ain't got a future."
The compound would also hold a cultural arts center and a museum of miniatures featuring "large stage sets with artificial people" in the vein of sculptor Duane Hanson, who created life-size 3-D dioramas. Inside the Perisphere, visitors would stand on a viewing platform beneath a canopy of stars.
"It's going to look like a room 200 feet wide with no walls, which will kind of be a freaky experience, I think," says Alcos. Viewers would stand "close to the moon, seeing Earth from a distance. Fundamentally, what I'm saying is that we have to look at ourselves from a different perspective."
The Paris-based Bureau International des Expositions, which governs World's Fairs, has selected the sites for the next five fairs, with the coming one set for 2000 in Hanover, Germany. Its theme is "Humankind, Nature and Technology."
But Alcos doesn't want to have a one- or two-year event for Long Island. For years, he has written letters detailing his plan for a permanent fair to local heavyweights like Cablevision, the Long Island Association and the Nassau and Suffolk county executives. He has received only form letters in response.
Undeterred, he has turned to the one place where any dreamer can thrive: the Internet. Since January, he's got 1,500 page visits on his Website (www.spectrums9.com/ page3.html). Web surfers agree he's got a good idea, but no one has offered financial backing or any other concrete support.
Alcos likes the idea of a Republic Airport site for all the reasons the area has become so developed: its central location, and acres of underused real estate nearby. Only problem is, the airport is being used by the state. As an airport.
"It would be missed by the people who make the 240,000 take-offs and landing each year," says airport director Hugh Jones of the 70-year-old civil aviation facility. "We also employ over 800 people."
Alcos argues that his idea would bring in even more jobs. But of course, the main reason Long Islanders would be opposed to such a plan would be traffic. The dreamer has an answer for that, too.
"I would like to present to the world an image that says 'Come, but don't bring your car,' Bringing cars, that's like bringing the golden goose and the whole family," he says. "I don't mind the goose, but forget the family."