The changes coming to Flushing Meadows Corona Park in the next decade will be sweeping and may include tearing down the rusting observation towers at the New York State Pavilion, Borough President Helen Marshall’s office said.
The city Parks Department recently completed its strategic framework plan for the park, projecting what may be in store 10 years from now.
But the plan was ambivalent about the aging elements of the 1964 World’s Fair. “The Unisphere, the Queens Museum and Theater in the Park and the New York State Pavilion, will be retained and restored to define the Park’s importance as a cultural destination,” the report says at one point.
Yet farther down, the urban architects seemed skeptical about the investment.
“We agree with the World Monuments Fund report that the NYS pavilion be stabilized and restored,” they wrote. “However, none of this work makes sense without a clear idea about its role in the future conceptual framework of the Park.”
“A report assessing the condition of the Pavilion is due in the next few months, but Dan Andrews, Marshall’s spokesman, said she is leaning toward taking the rusting observation towers down “in the wake of the current economic climate and the lack of funding that would be somewhat prohibitive to restore them in any way.”
The plan identifies three major strategies to pursue over the long term: renovating the core area of the park where the World’s Fairs took place; reconfiguring and restoring the park’s two lakes; and reconnecting the park to the surrounding neighborhoods.
The World’s Fair Core proposal would create a greener landscape with more varied topography, less paved surface and a new public gathering space at the spot where the “now dysfunctional Fountain of the Planets” sits. The proposal also calls for the Flushing River to be reopened to create a continuous ribbon of water through the park.
Marshall supports the plan, Andrews said. “She thinks it’s progress,” he said.
But one preservationist group is upset with the direction the plan proposes.
“They’re going to rip out the central fountain axis between the fountain and the Queens Museum,” said Greg Godfrey, president of the Flushing Meadows Corona Park World’s Fair Association. “If they get rid of that, they destroy the World’s Fair core.”
Godfrey also criticized the plan’s suggestion of creating more reinforced grassy areas to serve as overflow parking.
“It’s a joke,” he said. “They can’t even maintain the fields they have now with real grass.”
It may be some time before the park sees any of the major renovations discussed in the plan, however. Rebuilding the World’s Fair Core and dredging the lakes would cost roughly $60 million, the consultants found.
Andrews said the Parks Department suggested moving ahead with the more minor improvements the plan envisions.
“If we start with the smaller items, we can move as the situation of the economy improves with the much bigger ticket items,” he said.
The report does note that more studies are needed to analyze the park’s drainage system, signs and access points, which would cost roughly $2 million. The architects found that the park’s drainage was inadequate and exacerbated by large swaths of asphalt and other hard surfaces left over from the World’s Fairs. They also found that the access points and signs were confusing.
Reach reporter Jeremy Walsh by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 154.