Air museum plan gets boost from architect

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Architectural plans to convert the New York State Pavilion at Flushing Meadows Corona Park into an Air and Space Museum have received the support of the original architect Philip Johnson, his business partner said.

However, the Parks Department, which has the ultimate say on the fate of the property, expressed skepticism at the plans.

Aviation consultant Charles Aybar and Manhattan architect Frankie Campione of CREATE Architecture Planning and Design submitted renderings of the possible museum to Philip Johnson/Alan Ritchie Architects about a month ago.

“[Campione’s] been sharing some of the design proposals with us,” said Ritchie, managing partner of the firm. “We’re excited to see something is happening.”

According to Campione, CREATE has submitted two proposals to the Parks Department and the city of New York. One is to stabilize the 350-by-250 foot pavilion, constructed to house New York state’s exhibits at the 1964/1965 World’s Fair.

The second proposal is to construct the air and space museum. CREATE envisions enclosing the pavilion with glass, using the outward columns for elevators and housing a mock-up section of a Boeing 777 as well as a Jumbotron screen.

On its web site, CREATE says “only immediate renovations to stabilize the structure will prevent it from certain catastrophic collapse.”

But Campione insisted that the structure is safe.

“There’s no imminent danger now,” he said.

After the 1964/1965 World’s Fair, the $12 million pavilion was given to the borough of Queens and the Parks Department. The city made renovations to the pavilion to turn it into an exhibit space for art, but it was never used for that purpose. Instead, it has been used as a storage shed for Queens Theater in the Park.

Jane Rudolph, spokeswoman for the Parks Department, said finances were a problem for the Air and Space museum.

“It doesn’t quite seem like a feasible project,” she said. “There’s a lot of funding needed.”

Money is not the only problem, according to Rudolph.

“It stands so close to the Theater in the Park and the Queens Museum that they’re wouldn’t be enough parking available,” she said.

The Parks Department plans to consult with the Queens borough president’s office as well as members of the surrounding community before making a final decision on the project.

Jeff Rosenstock, executive director of Theater in the Park, was not happy with the current plans.

“Knowing the constituencies that use the park, I think there are better uses for that space than an air and space museum,” he said. “I think if they had the money it would be a different story. But they don’t have the money. I think it’s hype.”

The World’s Fair pavilion is just one of many famous works of architecture designed by Philip Johnson, who was born in 1906. Johnson designed the New York State Theater in Lincoln Center, the addition to the Boston Public Library and several New York University buildings.

Since Ritchie and Johnson became partners in 1993, the two have continued to work on large projects, including renovations to the Chrysler Center and Donald Trump’s International Tower and Hotel.

Campione estimated that if the air museum project were approved by the city, it would take five years to complete.

Ritchie said his firm would like to collaborate with CREATE if the project is approved.

“If this actually happens, we would like to contribute some ideas to the final design,” he said.

Reach Reporter Alexander Dworkowitz by e-mail at or call 229-0300 Ext. 141.

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