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Group kicks off drive to save NYS Pavilion

People for the Pavilion give a presentation to their first meeting at Queens Theater. Photo courtesy People for the Pavilion
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A new organization held its first event Saturday to kick off its campaign to preserve the New York State Pavilion.

More than 200 people braved the winter storm last weekend to attend People for the Pavilion’s first event, the group’s organizers said.

“The meeting was a hit,” said Matthew Silva, one of People for the Pavilion’s co-founders. “We want to bring in as many local groups as possible to create this coalition to preserve the building.”

The Pavilion opened in 1964 for the World’s fair before serving as a concert venue for a number of bands in the 1960s. It was later used as a roller skating rink and a movie set, appearing in “Men in Black” and “The Wiz.” The People for the Pavilion hope to turn the structure, which has sat vacant for years, into a public space that can be used by the community.

The group’s event started with an introduction of the members of People for the Pavilion, who then presented a brief history of the building. The organization then held a question-and-answer session that allowed people to share their thoughts as to what should be done with the historic structure that has sat empty for years.

A number of community groups attended the meeting, along with the New York Landmarks Conservancy and a representative for Queens Borough President Melinda Katz.

Silva said People for the Pavilion is now planning its program for 2014, which will include starting a public awareness campaign to show what the Pavilion once was and what it could be.

The Parks Department held its own brainstorming session Sunday to get the public’s input as to what should happen to the structure. Parks officials recently released estimates that it would cost $14 million to demolish the Pavilion and more than $50 million to completely restore it.

Silva said Sunday’s session was positive and attendees were overwhelmingly in favour of preserving it.

One of the ideas that came out of the meeting was to repaint the Pavilion and to hang lights on it to change the public’s perception of the building.

“Change the image from it as blight to something that is beautiful and could be a community asset,” Silva said.

Silva also launched a Kickstarter campaign this weekend to raise funds to finish his documentary, “Modern Ruin: A World’s Fair Pavilion,” which will chronicle the history of the Pavilion.

“It will hopefully demystify what the building is and was and answer a lot of people’s questions as to what the NYS pavilion has been over the last 50 years,” he said.

Those wishing to pledge money to Silva’s film can do so at http://kck.st/LVOLWu

Reach reporter Alex Robinson by e-mail at arobinson@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4566.

Updated 10:01 am, February 2, 2014
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Reader feedback

Claire Bazinet from Flushing says:
I'm all for saving the iconic Queen's World's Fair Pavilion, and suggest Matthew Silver start by renaming his documentary. No one is going to want to donate funds to a film entitled Modern Ruin (even with a sub-title. It sounds like they'd be throwing cash into a money pit! It needs an uplifting, aspiring, saving-Queens type of title. Also, instead of donating to a film documentary, how about donations to the project itself? Funds donated by the People, and matched or double-matched by...let's say, the 1 percenters of Queens (I'm sure there are many).
Feb. 2, 2014, 10:23 pm
Kenneth Kowald from I Sit and Look Out says:
Let's remember that the Pavilion may be the only Queens structure designed by Philip Johnson, the world-famous architect. Its neglect is another example, alas!, that sometimes we value our treasures when they are gone. But, the mechanisms exist today to not have to repeat something like the demolition of the wonderful Pennsylvania Station.
Good luck to all the efforts to preserve this gem.
Kenneth Kowald
Feb. 3, 2014, 12:11 pm
Johnny T. from Astoria says:
Instead of fighting the world of sports with a childlike stance that the Big East didn't need football teams before and doesn't need them now, St. John's University could add a football team, and use the World Fair pavilion as a football stadium site. The University would gain exposure by acting as a weekend attraction for families in Queens and Brooklyn who do not want to pay NJ transit tickets or bridge tolls to watch the Jets or Giants in New Jersey, it would give students another area to explore in New York, add to the value of the university and on top of that, help renovate a once historic site... Sounds like a win win situation to me
Feb. 4, 2014, 7:33 pm
jz from astoria says:
most people don't know this but that structure is covered in lead paint and is extremely hazardous. the sooner we get rid of that ugly piece of trash the better, especially with all the development planned in that area.
Feb. 4, 2014, 11:16 pm
John Blasyk from New Hyde Park says:
Sometimes we have to invest in the past ...to keep our memories alive... I took my mom back and she was so excited to see what was left .... Many of us NY ers were at the fair in 64....
March 27, 2014, 12:39 am

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