This past Saturday [August 11, 2007], FNY correspondent Christina Wilkinson was asked by NY Times reporter Monica Evanchik to help with a video segment for the paper’s website which will tentatively be entitled, “In the Shadow of the U.S. Open.” The piece will focus on the pristine condition of the U.S. Open Tennis Center, built for those of means, in contrast with the remainder of Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, its rotting infrastructure left for the rest of us.
David Oats, the Park Watchdog, was on hand to discuss the decrepit park conditions. He pointed out that the fountain under the Unisphere used to be turned on every weekend. Now it is only turned on once a year – during U.S. Open Tennis in late August and early September (the city wants the park to look nice on TV). Christina spoke on camera about the neglected Pavilion. There, another contrast was apparent – the brand new Queens Theater in the Park building sits next to the rusting hulk of metal that was a centerpiece of the 1964-65 World’s Fair.
David Oats (white cap) speaks to NY Times reporters. (RIGHT) Part of the New York State Pavilion is rusting away.
Queens Theatre in the Park can be seen beyond the rotting Pavilion. (RIGHT) Air conditioners for use during the US Open are stacked up near an unused reflecting pool.
Monica and videographer Matthew Orr also visited the damaged mosaics near the boardwalk leading to the 7 train, and stopped along the way to speak with soccer players, most of whom were recent immigrants, about conditions in the park. Their responses echoed the native Queensites’ sentiments that when it comes to maintaining Flushing Meadows – that the city does indeed discriminate based on class.
Sadly, David Oats passed away in February 2008.
No Fair At All [Forgotten NY] ForgottenTour 19 in Flushing Meadows More rusting park scenes from Steve Garza
On the road back to Christina’s home in Maspeth, she and Steve Garza visited the Lemon Ice King of Corona. On the way down 108th Street, they spotted a building at Van Doren Street that features replicas of the Trylon and Perisphere from the 1939-1940 World’s Fair, also held at FMCP. “When I did the FNY Corona page, I must have passed by this building at least 3 or 4 times, and I frequently take the Q58 bus down this route as well,” Christina said. “I never noticed this building before. This proves that although you think you know a place like the back of your hand, there can still be a surprise waiting for you around the corner.”
As far as your webmaster knew, the last extant representation of the Trylon and Perisphere, the central attractions of the 1939-1940 NYC World’s Fair, were the mosaics in the ticket booth and lobby at the Trylon Theatre on Queens Boulevard and 99th Street. But as we see here, anything can happen in Forgotten New York and a surprise can be found around any corner.
(LEFT) The Trylon and Perisphere loom over Horace Harding Boulevard (present site of the Long Island Expressway) in 1939. The Schaefer Beer exhibit (far left) and Virginia Pavilion (dome) also appear. from New York, Empire City 1920-1945, David Stravitz, Harry N. Abrams 2004
The Trylon and Perisphere were designed by the architectural firm of Harrison & Foulihoux and reflected the emphasis on purity embodied by industrial designers of the day. Ostensibly perfect forms, they were the only structures in the fair permitted to be painted pure white. The 700-foot Trylon and 200-foot Perisphere [actually 618 and 180 respectively--your webmaster] were connected by a giant ramp called the Helicline, which led visitors back to the grounds once they had visited the structures. Fair-goers entered the interior of the Theme Center by riding a portion of the way up the Trylon in what was, at the time, the world’s largest escalator. From the Trylon visitors were directed into the Perisphere in order to view what [architectural expert] Stanley Applebaum calls “a planned urban and exurban complex of the future,” a diorama which filled the floor of the building, entitled Democracity. Touring the Future
Jeffrey Hart: The Last Great Fair [New Criterion]