New York State Pavilion redesign competition meant to spur refurbishing

The New York State Pavilion, the iconic and long-dormant Worlds Fair relic that looms over Flushing Meadows-Corona Park practically begging for a reinvention, isn’t really any closer to a new life today than it has been lately.

But that hasn’t stopped People for the Pavilion, a non-profit devoted to restoring the towers to their one-time glory, from helping to run a competition soliciting redesign ideas aimed at generating buzz for a refurbishing.

And what ideas they have proven to be, with over 250 public submissions including such out-there concepts as a vertical garden to cheeseburger museum.

Salmaan Khan, People for the Pavilion co-founder, acknowledged that we aren’t likely to see any of the concepts made into a reality anytime soon. But, he added, that’s almost beside the point.

“There is something amazing here and there is an opportunity to get people to be part of something that belongs to them,” he said of the Pavilion.

The 226-foot-high steel structure, which includes the Tent of Tomorrow, the Astro-View Towers and Theaterama, was originally built for the 1964-1965 World’s Fair, where it hosted exhibits and shows. It featured a multicolored glass roof and a map of New York State on the floor.

In 1974, the city closed the Pavilion and removed the panels and roof two years later, spurring decades of decay for a staple of the park located right next to the beloved Unisphere.

There has been a push to get a restoration going over the past few years, with events including tours, a paint job that was done in the fall, and an allocation of nearly $13 million from the Queens borough president’s office, but activists say they need the public’s help.

Jason Clement, the director of community outreach for the National Trust for Historic Preservation, coordinators of the competition, hailed the diverse backgrounds of entrants.

“What I like about this is that we’re getting professional opinions and kids, adults and others who live in the community,” he said.

Entries in the contest range from a traditional concept for a full restoration of the roof to a beer brewery and the aforementioned cheeseburger museum.

Beatriz A. Gil, the co-founder of the Jackson Heights-based public art nonprofit the Hibridos Collective, part of a panel of judges, said no proposal is too far-fetched to potentially earn the top prize of $3,000.

“It’s about the quality of the idea, not execution of it,” she said. “As long as the Tent of Tomorrow and observation towers are included, anyone can overlay their ideas on top of that.”

Her fellow judge, Liz Waytkus of Do comomo US, a nonprofit conservancy group, said one of the biggest factors in the judging process is about preserving the World’s Fair’s history.

The fair was “what will the future of tomorrow bring. That is what I will be looking for. Show me tomorrow,” she said.

The public can vote on their favorite designs online until July 15; the popular pick will be revealed three days later. The official winners will be announced in August and some of the submissions will go on display at the Queens Museum of Art that month.

Vote for your favorite New York State Pavilion design idea here.