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NYS Pavilion restoration project in Flushing Meadows Corona Park wins coveted preservation award

Mar. 17, 2023 By Bill Parry

The New York Landmarks Conservancy announced that the $24 million restoration of the New York State Pavilion in Flushing Meadows Corona Park will be a recipient of the 2023 Lucy G. Moses Preservation Awards next month, which recognizes individuals, organizations and building owners for their contributions to the city.

The New York State Pavilion restoration project broke ground in 2019 to preserve the work of world-renowned architect Philip Johnson to stabilize the iconic observation towers and installation of architectural lighting of towers and Tent of Tomorrow as part of interventions to improve and enhance the Pavilion now, and make future maintenance and access to the last vestiges of the 1964-65 World’s Fair. The Lucy G. Moses Preservation Awards are the Conservancy’s highest honors for excellence in preservation.

“The Lucy’s are always a joyous celebration of excellent preservation projects and people,” New York Landmarks Conservancy President Peg Breen said.

(Photos courtesy of NYC Parks/Daniel Avila)

The scope of the work at the Pavilion included the replacement of the deteriorated suspension cables, repairs to spalling concrete at the observation towers, replacement of the at-grade concrete plaza slab, and repair of the historic concrete piers and fencing at the plaza level. A full electrical upgrade to the towers replaced conduits installed in the 1960s and new waterproofing protects the new electrical system. The observation stairs were replaced, to provide access for maintenance.

For visitors, there is the restoration of the original blue globe lighting at the towers and new architectural illumination that shines a glow on the spaced-age forms of the towers and Tent of Tomorrow.

“We are thrilled to receive a Lucy G. Moses Award for the New York State Pavilion, and we thank the New York Landmarks Conservancy for this recognition,” NYC Parks Deputy Commissioner for Capital Projects Therese Braddick said. “We’re proud to manage this storied pavilion, and the ongoing stabilization work, based on the comprehensive studies of the structures, lays the foundation for additional restoration work to the towers in the future.”

After the World’s Fair closed, the Pavilion was transferred to NYC Parks which found temporary uses for the site, including as a roller skating rink and as a concert venue that featured Led Zeppelin, Santana, and Ten Years After. But no long-term plan was ever implemented, leaving the Tent of Tomorrow and Towers shuttered for nearly a half-century. The restoration project is expected to be completed this summer

“Through this completed work, the NYS Pavilion observation towers — a highly significant work of Queens architecture — will be preserved to inspire future generations to inspire future generations of New Yorkers,” Braddick said.

That is precisely why Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz opted to make the restoration of the Pavilion a top priority when she served as Queens borough president. When she first took office at Borough Hall in 2014, officials at NYC Parks estimated it would cost $14 million to demolish the dilapidated iconic symbol of Queens history. Katz decided against demolition in favor of preservation.

The following year, the New York Structural Steel Painting Contractors Association restored the crown of the pavilion to its original “American cheese” yellow, a $3.25 million project that was completed at no cost to the city, in the first step towards the restoration project and now the Lucy Award.

“It is a fitting recognition of the work to preserve and update a beloved Queens landmark recognized all over the world,” Katz said. “A great deal of time and energy went into this work, but for all involved, it was a labor of love.”

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