1970s Ariel of the Park

Flushing Meadows-Corona Park has seen decades of successes and setbacks since the Fair returned it to the City in 1967. This aerial photo from the early seventies shows a maturing park. The former Greyhound Pavilion, which occupied a plot just below the T-shaped Heliport, has been razed. The Heliport has become an exclusive banquet and catering facility called "Terrace on the Park." And the zoo has become a reality in the area formerly occupied by the Chrysler exhibit and bordering the Grand Central Parkway. The Fair's "Churchill Center" geodesic dome serves as an aviary.

In the mid-seventies, the City of New York experienced a financial crisis that nearly drove it into bankruptcy. The lack of money for public services had dire consequences for Flushing Meadows-Corona Park. Basic maintenance services were not performed due to lack of funds and cutbacks in city personnel meant a lack of security patrols for the park. As a result, time, neglect and vandalism took their toll -- a situation from which the park is still recovering.

No use was ever found for the Federal Pavilion. It was finally demolished in 1976 after vandals had nearly destroyed it from the inside out. Neglect caused the roof of the New York State Pavilion to become unsafe and it was removed in the mid-seventies. The pavilion today stands neglected and unused, its fate undecided.

The arrival of the US Tennis Association (USTA) at Flushing Meadows in 1977 provided a catalyst for a turn-around. The former Singer Bowl arena became the Louis Armstrong Stadium, initial site for the US Open held annually around Labor Day. After USTA outgrew that facility, a new stadium, the Arthur Ashe Stadium, was erected on the site where the Federal Pavilion once stood; making use of the thousands of piles that were driven there as supports. A casualty of the tennis area was the former Press Building which was torn down in the mid-nineties to provide an off-ramp into the USTA area from the Grand Central Parkway. It had been used since 1967 by the Police Department.

The Amphitheater was another casualty of time and neglect and was demolished in the mid-nineties as well. The building, built for the '39 Fair, saw crowds and smiling faces at the '64 Fair. But it had been closed for years and the Parks Department could find no use for the structure. So, amid howls of protest from preservationists, the structure was demolished.

Flushing Meadows-Corona Park Today is a place of beauty and activity. The park has become a premier park for the City of New York. The Fountains of the Continents and Fountains of the Fairs have been restored. Unisphere has been designated a Landmark and has undergone restoration as well. The park is alive with the voices of laughter and enjoyment.

Photo: Courtesy of Fred Stern - Do not copy without permission

The Final Report

Nearly 3000 boxes of records, correspondence, photographs, films, booklets and brochures were shipped to the New York Public Library when the 1964-1965 New York World's Fair Corporation was dissolved. They are stored in the NYPL's "Special Collections" Department.

The 1964/1965 New York World's Fair Corporation issued its final report in February, 1972 -- nearly seven years after the close of the Fair due to lengthy legal battles with note holders.

Final Report cover

From the final report:

The New York World's Fair 1964-1965 officially closed to the public at 2:00 a.m. on October 18, 1965.

The immediate problems facing the Fair Corporation were demolition and restoration and disposition of a substantial amount of pending litigation. In the lease of the Fair site from the City of New York to the Fair Corporation, it was provided that the site where the Fair had been conducted, Flushing Meadow Park, was to be restored to its original condition as a park and, after demolition and restoration, returned to the City.

As soon as the Fair ended, it was apparent that the demolition and restoration could not be accomplished if the noteholders were paid in full. The noteholders had, by that time, received a prepayment in 1964 of 25% of the principal, and interest had been paid up to date. The notes were to become due August 1, 1966.

- Charles F. Preusse, Counsel to the World's Fair Corp.

In the end, creditors were paid 62.4% of their investment and the Fair's remaining assets of $1.5 million were transferred to the City of New York for "educational" purposes.

From the final report:

A Fair is not a business in the ordinary sense. The noteholders are largely corporate exhibitors who in the end profit by the exposition even if they don't recoup their entire note investment, and the community, visitors from all over the country and foreign nations gain immensely from a matchless voyage of discovery. Much remained permanently when the Fair closed. As to the small minority of acid skeptics, grouches and jaundiced-eyed grumblers, the public pays them no mind. Critics build nothing.

To sum up, fair-minded observers will concede that no World's Fair worth visiting can return all direct and indirect subventions or repay all the cash private noteholders who had sound business reasons for supporting such a venture originally put into it. Business got its investments back with interest in many ways. No employees, people of small means or building contractors and subcontractors were dragooned into contributing. In this instance the noteholders get back 62.4 cents on a dollar. After World's Fair One [the 1939/1940 New York World's Fair] they received forty percent.

- Robert Moses, President of the World's Fair Corp.

Webmaster's Note... Many thanks to the contributors who made this feature possible: Gary Holmes, who ran to his Grandmother's house every day to retrieve the NY newspapers: Thank you for sharing this history on-line. Bruce Mentone who climbed up into his attic on a hot summer afternoon to find his demolition pictures to share with you. Craig Bavaro for sharing the financial audits of the Fair with me. No story of the Fair is complete without mentioning that painful topic. Fred Stern and Bill Cotter for loaning the wonderful aerials of the park restored. Phil Ras for finding RM's Closing Day remarks. Thank you all for your kindness.

I know for many of you, the Fair ended far too quickly. I hope this story of the restoration of the Park helps to document, somewhat, an important chapter of its history.

Bill Young
August 2, 2001