City moves in to preserve World’s Fair pavilion


The city has started renovation work on the Philip Johnson-designed New York State Pavilion from the 1964 World’s Fair in Flushing Meadow Park. Volunteers have begun clearing weeds and debris from the inside of the space so that workmen can put down a layer of sand and gravel to protect the terrazzo map of New York State on the floor of the circular Tent of Tomorrow structure. The Pavillion also included the towers used as space ships in Men in Black.

Preservationists have been lobbying the city for years to carry out a preservation plan for the map designed by an expert at the University of Pennsylvania. Sections of the map have been removed for restoration, but the rest has gone unprotected from water, weeds, and ice because the city had other priorities for the money it would have taken. John Krawchuk, the historic preservation director for the Parks Department, suggested at the time that demolition was one possibility.

The 43-year-old Pavilion was named as one of the 100 most endangered sites by the World Monuments Fund and as a Historic Landmark by the state Board for Historic Preservation, both within the past two years.

Architects working pro bono are developing plans for possible alternative uses of the structure, which Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe said might be used as a welcome center or museum. Krawchuk said that Parks is waiting for a structural integrity study of the Tent and the Towers before making any plans. An earlier engineering study obtained by the News suggested that sections would have to be torn down and rebuilt if the space was going to be occupied.