Long-awaited World’s Fair site rehab set to begin

The 1964 World’s Fair New York State Pavilion Observation Towers in 2014. AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews.

The 1964 World’s Fair New York State Pavilion Observation Towers in 2014. AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews.

By Victoria Merlino

A Queens icon is scheduled for an overdue upgrade.

The New York State Pavilion Observation Towers, part of the ruins of the 1964 World’s Fair in Flushing Meadows Corona Park, are scheduled for refurbishment, with over $24 million worth of funding for the project coming from Mayor Bill de Blasio’s office, the City Council and Borough President Melinda Katz’ office.

After the Unisphere, Queens’ unofficial symbol, the Observation Towers are the most recognizable feature of the old fairgrounds, with their height looming over the park and the nearby Grand Central Parkway. The restoration will give the towers new lighting features, making them even easier to spot at night. 

The Fountain of the Fairs that surrounds the Unisphere is also set to begin its update this month. When complete, the fountain will become an elaborate water park for kids and include a “fog garden.”

The State Pavilion restoration, first reported by Untapped Cities, is one of many efforts made in recent years to preserve aspects of the historic fairgrounds that spawned innovations like some of the most popular rides at Walt Disney World.  

In 2018, the park received a $16.4 million grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to help restore areas of the fairgrounds, following a lashing and damage from 2012’s Hurricane Sandy.

“The World’s Fair Pavilion is one of Flushing’s iconic sites,” said Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, who announced the deal, in a statement at the time, as reported by the Eagle. “This funding is an important investment that will help repair the electric components of many of the park’s facilities, including the vaults, concession area, boathouse, main area, and comfort station.”

“These fixes are an important step in recovering from the damage that Hurricane Sandy caused and will help revitalize the World’s Fair Pavilion for future generations to enjoy,” she continued. 

In 2015, Borough President Melinda Katz recruited painters unions to assist in repainting the State Pavilion’s Tent of Tomorrow. Thirty bridge painters volunteered 8,000 hours to get the job done.

Reconstruction of the World’s Fair Marina, another fair element that took a beating from Hurricane Sandy, is ongoing. The Parks Department expects the design phase of the reconstruction to be completed by April 2020.