...created Flushing Meadows Park. Robert
Moses, that is.
One cannot begin to document the story
of the building of the Fair without first a reference to Flushing
Meadow Park and its creator, Robert Moses. The stories of the
Fair, the Park and Robert Moses are so intertwined it is only
appropriate to begin with Flushing Meadow, Moses' grand dream
for the greatest of urban parks. And although he was not the
originator of the idea for a World's Fair in New York in the
mid-twentieth century, Robert Moses surely was the catalyst that
brought it to fruition.
Saga of Flushing Meadows has been
told in detail on other pages at nywf64.com
and you are invited to read it. Briefly, the site of New York's
World's Fairs was once a refuse dump in the Borough of Queens;
the Corona Dumps by name. In 1936 this blighted area was chosen
by then New York City Parks Commissioner Robert Moses to host
the city's first World's Fair; the New York World's Fair of 1939/1940.
Moses realized that the population of the city was shifting ever
further east. He saw the reclamation of the Corona Dumps for
the 1939 World's Fair as an opportunity to create a vast urban
park in an area which would be closer to the population center
of the metropolis.
More than 1200 acres of swamp land were
reclaimed for the site of the World's Fair. Beneath this huge
expanse of marshy land was laid miles and miles of gas, electric,
water and sewer lines. On the surface, miles more of roadways,
paths, trees and flower beds were created. The World's Fair would
be temporary. The utilities, roadways and plantings were permanent.
They, and the huge proceeds from the Fair, would provide the
foundation for the site's restoration to a park after the Fair
The 1939/1940 New York World's Fair at Flushing
The 1939/1940 World's Fair was a popular
success. It was a financial flop. There were no proceeds to complete
Moses' grand urban park. And, despite some additional funding
provided to enhance certain areas of Flushing Meadow when it
played host to a youthful United Nations Headquarters in the
mid 1940s, the park remained more of a wilderness area than a
true urban park.
Then, in 1959, a group of men began to
float an idea around City Hall that New York should again play
host to the world with a new Fair. Twenty years had passed since
the 1939 World's Fair and they felt that it would benefit their
children, and all children, to have an opportunity to experience
"The World of Tomorrow" and its wonders as they had
two decades before at the 1939/1940 New York World's Fair. As
the idea began to take hold and it became clear that a site would
be needed to host a new Fair, Flushing Meadow Park was the obvious
choice. It also became clear that it would require someone of
extraordinary talent to undertake such an immense project as
the building of a World's Fair.
Robert Moses was about to be provided with
an opportunity to see his great park become a reality at last.