DAVID’S GARDEN, Flushing Meadows

by Kevin Walsh

In the shadow of the imposing Philip Johnson New York State Pavilion Towers sits a quiet verdant oasis called David’s Garden, a tribute to longtime Queens Tribune editor David Oats, who was a lifelong advocate for Flushing Meadows-Corona Park and its upkeep following the end of the World’s Fair after its two-year run in 1965. He was founder and president of the Flushing Meadows Corona Park World’s Fair Association, of which longtime parks and traffic czar Robert Moses was the first chairman.

Oats had met Moses when, as a twelve-year-old, he illegally entered the Fair grounds while they were under construction. He was brought over to Moses for a tongue lashing, but Moses saw something he liked in the youth and Oats returned Moses’ kindness as a constant park advocate and supporter.

“David was the park’s keeper, watchdog, caretaker and conscience; prodding, urging, leading and demanding the borough and park powers-that-be care for the park with which David had a 40-plus year love affair,” wrote longtime friend and Queens Tribune publisher Michael Schenkler upon Oats’ death in 2008. “No one cared more, knew more, or fought harder for the good of the park or the recognition of the historical significance of the World’s Fairs [of 1939-40 and 1964-65],” Schenkler said of Oats.

I return to the “Fairgrounds” often. In April 2014, Forgotten NY set a record with 65 tourgoers for FNY Tour #76 during the Fair’s 50th anniversary.

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Kenneth Buettner August 10, 2022 - 5:14 am

David Oats was the kind of person whose contributions are large and mostly unheralded. There was no elected office or position of great power. There was simply a solid dedication to a cause that benefited the common good. That dedication resulted in a place of enjoyment for tens of thousands of people regularly – people who don’t know of his work, whose lives are better for it. We need more people like him today.

Doug Peterson August 12, 2022 - 1:44 am

FYI … Mr. Oats’ widow — Corinne — is active in a World’s Fair FB group, and spoke highly of your article.

Corinne Oats August 12, 2022 - 7:03 pm

Thank you for this beautiful tribute to my late husband , David Oats. I was blessed to have shared with him the passion he had for Flushing Meadows Park, preservation, urban planning and NY. He will be forever in my heart and I am so happy to see how many friends keep David in their thoughts. Don’t forget him ! Keep his passion alive . Al the best. Corinne Oats

Kevin Walsh August 12, 2022 - 10:15 pm

My pleasure!

P-j Greiner August 27, 2022 - 11:24 am

Sometime between 1986 and 1989, I had the good fortune to meet David Oats at a conference on NYC World’s Fair history at Queens College. He gave a wonderful presentation on both fairs. I was a young NYC Park Ranger, stationed in FMCP and an Elmhurst resident who visited the1964 Fair almost every weekend. As two World’s Fair history buffs, we hit it off immediately. We chatted for a long time until way after the conference ended. I found out that like Robert Moses, he did not have a driver’s license, so I gave him a ride home. He invited me in and showed me a few items from his Worlds Fair collection. When I gave a tour of the fairgrounds as a Park Ranger for the anniversary in 1989, David lent us his 1964 Worlds Fair flag. During those tours, that flag flew over the park for the first time in 25 years. We were both amazed at that sight. David was an incredible source of information on the fairs and on Queens in general. I am proud to have known and worked with him for the short time I was able. I was stunned at the news of his passing. As mentioned above, David was dedicated, unheralded, and passionate; he will always be warmly remembered and greatly missed.


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