Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Let There Be Light - New York State Pavilion Hopes For A Brighter Future

Lighting tests conducted on the Astro-View Towers of the New York State Pavilion last Tuesday evening illuminated the iconic structures for the first time in nearly 50 Years.  With the concrete sections under the platforms long gone the exposed rusted underbelly is clearly visible at night.  A lighting design firm has been brought in by the Queens Borough President's office to create a temporary lighting plan which will be installed later this year.   Nearly $ 6 million dollars in public funds have been allocated so far for work that will eventually include restoring electrical service and eliminating flooding in the towers,  replacing rotted staircases, roofs and reinforcing concrete on the observation decks. 

(Photos: © Geoffrey Croft/NYC Park Advocates) Click on images to enlarge.


By Geoffrey Croft

The New York State Pavilion including its iconic Astro-View Towers and the Tent of Tomorrow in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park in Queens are one of the New York City’s most public symbols of neglect.

For five decades the tower's iconic flying saucer design - purportedly inspired by the buildings of Krypton in the Superman comics - has inspired the imaginations of countless children and adults alike.

Built for the 1964-65 New York World's Fair, the Pavilion was a $12 million gift from the taxpayers of New York State to the Borough of Queens and the Parks Department.

For years preservationists and World's Fair advocates have been pressing the city to come up with and financially support a successful redevelopment plan for the beloved structures — a plan that takes into account adaptive re-uses that not only pays respect to the two remaining structures but also, and perhaps most importantly, compliments the mission of the park to serve the community.

The Astro-View Towers lit for the first time in nearly half a century.  The Unisphere can be seen illuminated on the bottom left hand side. The 12-story high globe was built as a symbol of world peace by the US Steel Corporation for 1964-65 World's Fair.  The Unisphere once too had dramatic lighting at night during the Fair which gave the effect of sunrise moving over the surface of the globe. The capitals of nations were also marked by lights. 

Rachel Eichorn of Shimstone Design Studio points a 200 watt  LED light towards the New York State Pavilion's Astro- View Towers.   

Advocates have fought to have the government, at the very least, allocate the funds that are desperately needed to help stabilize the structures from falling further into disrepair.

These dreams are coming a bit closer to reality.

Nearly six million dollars in Mayoral, City Council and Queens Borough President funding have been allocated for an initial redevelopment phase which will concentrate on stabilizing the deteriorating Astro Towers.

Proponents of preserving the buildings hope to literally shed light on the deplorable condition of the structures in an effort to keep pressure on politicians for the need to provide additional funding.

The futuristic looking steel-and-glass enclosed Sky Streak capsule elevators once whisked visitors to its observation deck 226 above the Fair in 20 seconds.   The capsules - key elements of the iconic Flushing Meadows pavilion - have been left at the mercy of decay and vandals since the Fair ended in 1965.  The design has inspired the imaginations of countless people.

Last Tuesday lighting designers tested 150 and 200-watt LED lamps at several locations to the delight of on-lookers.

The work is the first step in a restoration project for the New York State Pavilion and the adjacent Tent of Tomorrow, the most well-known and revered remnants of the 1964-65 World’s Fair that remain unpreserved. The structures, designed by noted architect Philip Johnson, have been allowed to slowly rust away by the city since the Fair's closing in 1965.

The project will include restoring electrical service in the basement of the towers as well as eliminating flooding conditions,  replacing the rotted staircases,  replacing the roofs on all three towers,  repairing concrete platforms,  repairing and painting of steel,  on the observation decks,  as well as monitoring the Tent of Tomorrow.   The total cost for this work was estimated last year at $ 11.8 million dollars of which $5.8 million has been raised so far.

The elevators have been shamefully rotting away on the ground surrounded by a chain-link fence since the Parks Department had them removed from the towers in 1998.

A  $ 650,000 dollar contract has been awarded to Robert Silman and Associates for design work. 

"We have to proceed," said Barry Grodenchik who is overseeing the project in the Queens Borough Presidents office.  

He said he hopes the work goes out to bid "very shortly." 

The three towers measure 60, 150 and 226 feet high and commanded sweeping  360-degree views.  The two shorter towers held cafeterias for the fair and the tallest tower, as the highest point of the fair, held an observation deck. Fifty years ago visitors ascended the towers in the “Sky Streak” capsule elevators in 20 seconds.  Admission to the observation tower was 50 cents for adults and 25 cents for children. 

Sadly, the once sleek space-aged elevators have been shamefully rotting away on the ground at the base of the towers since the Parks Department took them down in 1998.

Mechanical Room. The first phase of the project will include restoring electrical service in the towers as well as eliminating flooding conditions in the basement. 

A few weeks ago five kids broke into the towers and graffitied.  

Attendees on Tuesday were not the only ones to catch the lighting tests.  Thousands of motorists traveling along the Long Island Expressway, the Grand Central Parkway and the Van Wick Expressway caught a glimpse of what the future could hold.

Shimstone Design Studio has been engaged to come up with an overall lighting design and oversee its future installation. 

Rachel Eichorn working the light. 

"It's an important structure that everyone wants to preserve," said Brian Belluomini a principle in the firm which is donating its services.

“Lighting will help bring attention to the need to preserve it. You want it to stand out. To see such interest in this early stage is wonderful.  I want it to reopen. I would love to go to the top," he said.

Brian Belluomini manuvers a light between the outer wall of the Tent of Tomorrow and a 100-foot column, one of 16,  that once supported the world's biggest suspension roof.          Although not part of the scope of Shimstone Design Studio's work they did a few tests on the Tent. Proponents of preserving and reusing the structure also hope it too will eventually be lit.

Although not part of the scope of their project, Brian and his colleague Rachel Eichorn also conducted a couple of tests on the Tent of Tomorrow, which they also hope will eventually be illuminated.  They shined a portable light along at the top of the rusting frame and also stretched out a long extension cord and moved to the base where they pointed the LED lamp up towards one of the 100-foot concrete columns that once helped support the world's largest suspension roof.

"It's such an iconic landmark it should be protected," said Rachel Eichorn.

Several families from the surrounding community came out on Tuesday including some that had interacted with the buildings for generations.

"I remember roller skating in the pavilion when I was their age and my mother remembers going to the Fair," said a woman who brought her kids to watch the lighting tests.

"It would be great if they opened this all up again so people in the community could use it.  We need positive things to do."

One volunteer group has literally brought the building back to life, helping to ensure its future.  

Since 2009 the New York State Pavilion Paint Project has spruced up the faded Tent of Tomorrow by painstakingly painting over the long-faded red and white striped interior and exterior walls, often working in the stifling summer heat.  Over these years this dedicated group has been the most visible presence responsible for helping keep the dream alive and in making sure the need for preservation is kept in the public eye.

Not Just Red and White stripes.  A New York State Pavilion Paint Project volunteer applies much needed yellow to the building. 

One of the Paint Project’s founders, John Piro, stopped by to see the light tests. 

"Its part of the rebirth of the pavilion" said John.  "It looks like a piece of art from another time."

Like many people he would also like to see the Tent of Tomorrow lit at night, "so people can see that magnificent building too.  It looks like the Coliseum in Rome." 

He remembers vividly the first time he saw the towers lit at night. 

"I still remember that moment from 1964. I was with my friend we were walking and I looked up under the deck and saw those bright lights shinning up on the platform. It stopped me in my tracks. My mouth was wide open. " 

John also has a special connection with the pavilion having played there during the Fair with his band when he was 15-years-old. 

This stunning night view from 1965 shows the New York State Pavilion, including the Tent of Tomorrow and the Astro-View Towers.  The New York State Pavilion complex, designed by noted architect Philip Johnson, featured three observation towers,  the Theaterama, and a colorful Tent of Tomorrow featuring the world's biggest suspension roof.   The Tent was made up of 16 100-foot columns supporting a 50,000 sq. foot roof of multicolored translucent panels as well as three towers, measuring 60, 150 and 226 feet tall.   (Photo: AP Photo)

Of the New York State Pavilion's three original structures -  the Astro-View Towers, the Tent of Tomorrow and Theaterama, only the Theaterama (above) has been re-purposed and is now the Queens Theatre.

Matthew Silva has just finished up his loving tribute to the Pavilion in a documentary entitled “Modern Ruin.” 

A Long Island middle school teacher born in Flushing Queens, Silva began his documentary in earnest after bringing a group of students on an urban planning field trip to the site in 2012.

The film will have a benefit premiere for the Queens Theatre on May 22 which is located adjacent to the observation towers.  

Of the pavilion's three original structures only one, the Theaterama, has been re-purposed and is now the Queens Theatre.

Silva said last Tuesday night's event was "really exciting.”

“It really does remind me of what the Italians have done to their ruins in Rome.  Seeing it at night lit up will change the public's perception of how beautiful and special it is.” 

Silva’s film even has a little something for Led Zeppelin fans: Hint - the band played twice at the Pavilion in August 1969 - and not at the Singer Bowl as is sometimes mistakenly reported - during their Summer 1969 North American Tour.  Performance photos Silva tracked down are seen in the film.  The venue was apparently switched to the Pavilion from the Singer Bowl after an argument with the band's management. 

A "record crowd" of well over 10,500 attended – at a $3 ticket price -  and attendees sat on top of the famed terrazzo pavement from the Texaco road map.  And thousands listened outside according to a news report.   One attendee's account posted on-line states that the band repeatedly had to stop the show to ask concert goers to come down after climbing up the Pavilion's support cables which were leftover and dangling from the Tent of Tomorrow's massive roof structure. 

Silva credits, like many people do, the dedicated folks of the Paint Project for reviving public interest in the site.

"It got people noticing it again," he said.

"For the last 40 years it has been chained up and inaccessible as parkland. Hopefully it will be restored for some sort community use.”

Another person with a special connection to the Fair is very pleased with the renewed interest.  

"It's nice to see the pavilion getting some long all overdue attention," said Bill Cotter, a Word's Fair aficionado.  

Bill has amassed a collection of more than 24,000 photos from the 1964/65 Fair some of which were used in Matthew's film. Now living on the west coast he is flying in from California for the premiere.  

Like many people he has very fond memories of the original lighting scheme especially the blue globes made of glass that once ringed throughout the Tent of Tomorrow and the towers, an experience he referred to as "majestic."

"It would be nice to see the lighting restored to the pavilion in general not just spotlights shining on the towers. They left a lasting impression. 

Bill was 12-year-old when he and his family first visited the Fair.  He can't recall just how many times he returned, "quite a bit" he says, and when he found the Fair's one dollar admission fee for kids elusive he scoured the neighborhood collecting 2 and 5 cent soda bottles for the refunds, along with old newspapers which were sold by the pound and recycled.   

"If just one child gets inspired by a World's Fair than its worth it." 

Since taking office last year, Queens Borough President Melinda Katz has vowed to preserve the Pavilion. She has spearheaded efforts and created a Pavilion task force and helped secure the $5.8 million in city funds to light and begin initial repairs of the space.  The Borough President was present on Tuesday for the lighting tests.

The Power Of The Paint. Before And After. Since 2009 the volunteers from New York State Pavilion Paint Project have literally brought the faded Tent of Tomorrow back-to-life making sure the need to preserve these structures does not fade from the public eye.  

(Photos: © Geoffrey Croft/NYC Park Advocates) Click on images to enlarge.

Read More:
New York Daily News  - March 25, 2015 - By Lisa L. Colangelo   

Queens Chronicle - March 27, 2015

Times Ledger - By Bill Parry

Times Ledger  -  By Bill Parry

Monday, March 30, 2015

Central Park: Tractor-Trailer Hits Transverse Bridge - Snarls Traffic

Bad Judgement. A wrong turn on Fifth Avenue into the 65th Street Transverse Road Central Park created a traffic headache for hours after a tractor-trailer got stuck after hitting a stone arch bridge. The truck was finally able to break free after the driver let air out of the tires. 
(Photos: Geoffrey Croft/NYC Park Advocates) Click on images to enlarge  


By Geoffrey Croft

A tractor-trailer traveling across Central Park got stuck when it struck a stone arch vehicle bridge after not obeying posted traffic signs.

Police closed off the 65th Street Transverse in both directions for hours causing massive traffic delays.

The road connects the East side on Manhattan at Fifth Avenue to the West side at Central Park West through the park.  

The driver of the truck was issued a summons for not obeying traffic posted signs.

The truck from Gamer Logistics, out of  El Paso, Texas was transporting electronic components when it was unable to clear the final stone arch vehicle bridge. 

Tight Squeeze. The truck, from Gamer Logistics, out of  El Paso, Texas was transporting electronic components west bound across the park when it was unable to clear the final stone arch vehicle bridge. 

The truck was able to clear two similar bridges before hitting the wooden roof of the last one about ten feet from freedom as it travelled to the westside of the park.

"This happens all the time," said an officer at the scene. "People don't pay attention or they think they can make it." 

"All of (sic) trucks are equipped with satellite tracking which allows our office to monitor the movement of all trucks and assist in routing equipment around weather and traffic delays," the company's website states.  

The vehicle was finally able to break free after air was taken out of the tires.   

In 2012 a truck delivering newspapers was mangled after striking the 96th Street Transverse. 

Some passengers traveling on the crosstown bus reportedly were let off in the middle of the park.  

The driver of the vehicle lets air out of the tires. 

Clearance signs are posted in both directions on the bridges and along Fifth and Central Park West before you enter the park. 

Police on the scene. 

Fifth Avenue. The 65th Street Transverse  Road in Central Park was closed off in both directions for hours causing massive traffic delays.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Girl, 10 Attempted Abduction In Brooklyn Park

The 10-year-old Brooklyn girl told police she was walking through a basketball court at Betsy Head Memorial Playground about 7:30 a.m. when a man came up and complimented her hair and backpack, and then tried to grab her. Pictured is a police sketch of the suspect.

Police released a sketch of the suspect wanted in this morning's scary incident involving a ten-year-old girl in Besty Head Park.   (image: DCPI)


By Geoffrey Croft

A 10 year-old-girl reported to police that she was walking alone through a Brooklyn Park on her way to school at 7:25 this morning when a man tried to grab her.

The girl was cutting through the basketball courts in Besty Head Park on Bristol Street between Blake & Dumont Avenues when the reported attack occurred.   

She told police she screamed and ran towards her home where her mother called police. 

The assailant ran in the opposite direction. 

The attacker is described as a male black, 35, short dreadlocks, bulging eyes, blue shirt, blue jacket and dark colored pants. 

The girl was not physically hurt.

The alleged incident occurred within the confines of the 73 Pct.

Read More:

Brooklyn girl, 10, flees would-be abductor on way to school: cops
New York Daily News - March 24, 2015 - By Rocco Parascandola

Eyewitness News -  March 24, 2015 - By Jim Dolan

CBS - March 24, 2015

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Stolen Verdi Square Dog Sculpture Not Likely To Be Reinstalled After Recovery

View this content on artnet's website
Tony Matelli's Stray Dog (2000) was stolen on Sunday from Verdi Square at 72nd street and Broadway and was found abandoned in Riverside Park at few hours later.  (Photo: ArtNews)


By Geoffrey Croft

A sculpture depicting a lost labrador seeing-eye dog with a harness that was stolen on Sunday from Verdi Square will not likely be reinstalled, NYC Park Advocates has learned.

Tony Matelli's "Stray Dog" bronze sculpture was installed in December  adjacent to the subway station at 72nd & Amsterdam/Broadway as part of the temporary group exhibition entitled Broadway Morey Boogie. The 100 + pound sculpture was stolen on Sunday, but recovered hours later by the NYPD after it was discovered next to a tree in Riverside Park near 72nd Street. 

The re-sited canine piece is in Parks Department custody and is awaiting return to the Marlborough Gallery which sponsored the show.

Broadway Morey Boogie  was originally intended to be on view until February. It is now slated to stay up until early April to make way for the next Broadway Malls public art exhibition.

The Parks Department says it is "unlikely" that Matelli's work will be reinstalled at Verdi Square, "given the short duration until the conclusion of the show," a parks official stated.

Embedded image permalink

Read More:

Tony Matelli's Stray Dog Sculpture Stolen From New York Subway Station
Artnews - March 16, 2015 - By Eileen Kinsella

ArtNews - March 16, 2015 - By Hannah Ghorashi

Sky-High Graffiti Bust: Teens Caught On Top Of Flushing Meadows Corona Park Worlds Fair Towers

Five teens were caught by park police after they broke into and climbed 226 feet to the top of the observation deck of the abandoned and severely deteriorated Worlds Fair Astro Towers. The iconic structure closed in 1965.   (Photos: © Geoffrey Croft/NYC Park Advocates)  Click on images to enlarge


By Geoffrey Croft

Five knuckle-headed teens were busted hanging out and doing graffiti 226 feet in the air on the observation deck of the Worlds Fair's iconic Astro Towers NYC Park Advocates has learned. 

Two girls and three boys broke into the towers and made their way to the very top, spray painting tags along the way.  

Two eagle-eyed park cops on patrol in Flushing Meadows Corona Park spotted several figures from about a half mile away walking around the rusted flying saucer-like structures at approximately at 3:30pm on Sunday. 

 Death Staircase.  One the severely deteriorated staircases is missing entire sections of stairs. 

When Park Enforcement Patrol Officers arrived they found a hole in the perimeter fence.   At the base of the circular concrete tower they found the rusty door leading to staircase wide open and a pair of pliers and a broken lock tossed on the ground. 

The KEEP OUT sign on the door had fresh graffiti.

Where the futuristic yellow steel-and-glass enclosed Sky Streak capsule elevators once whisked visitors in seconds to its observation decks high above the World's Fair officers now had to risk their lives going up the severely rusted staircase in order to bring the kids back down to safety. 

When PEP officers arrived at the base of the tower they saw the door leading inside wide open and a pair of pliers and a clipped lock tossed on the ground. 

Numerous fresh pink, teal and black-colored graffiti tags were found in numerous locations as the officers ascended to the top. 

Officers had to use a make-shift ladder made of electrical cords in order to reach the highest peak of observation deck to reach the teens. 

Some of the sky-high graffiti seen on the obsevation deck. 

And at the base. 

Rusted Staircase.

The surprised group were caught red handed with two book bags filled with spray paint,  markers and a camera that contained photos of tags at various locations. 

Park Enforcement Patrol Officers arrested two males, a 14 & 15-year old.

The two were charged with trespassing and possession of a graffiti instrument.  The 14-year-old was busted a few weeks ago for pot possession and had rolling papers on him on Sunday according to law enforcement sources.   

The two were transported to the 110 Pct., given juvenile reports and released to their parents who were not happy.

"Safety is always first," a PEP officer at the scene commented. 

"It's an old building that's falling apart. It is really not safe to be up there, they are putting their lives in danger and if they are partying it makes it a lot worse." 

Breathtaking Views. 

March 7, 2015

Park officers found the front gate of the New York State Pavilion wide open and the lock missing.  They also discovered a hole in another fence on the inside. 

New York State Pavilion.    (Photos: © Geoffrey Croft/NYC Park Advocates)  Click on images to enlarge

February 23, 2015

PEP officers caught a vandal wanted by police.  

While on patrol PEP officers caught Bagner Jara, 16, literally red handed spray-painting the tag "zero"  with red paint on the outside of a park bathroom near the Playground for All Children in Flushing Meadows Corona Park. 

When officers approached he jumped on his bike and took off, peddling away.  He was captured by the New York State Pavilion. He had a knapsack with a red spray can and a bag containing nearly 4 grams of marijuanna. 

He is known to tag "Zero" and "Zion" which are prevalent in and around the park. 

Jara was charged with unlawful possession of marijuana and possession of a graffiti instrument.

At the 110 Pct.  His name came up when police ran his name in the NYPD vandal unit data base.   Police charged with a second crime for spray painting the word "zero" on the rear of an abandoned building at 97-05 Alstayne Ave also in the 110 Pct. 

These are Jara's only two arrests. 

Read More:

CBS - March 20, 2015 - By Sonia Rincon

Eyewitness News - March 20, 2015

5 teens busted after climbing tower at New York State Pavilion in Queens with spray paint: officials  
New York Daily News - March 19, 2015 -  By Lisa L. Colangelo   

NY1 -  March 19, 2015 

New York Post - March 19, 2015  - By Kirstan Conley

Gothamist - March 19, 2015 -  Ben Yakas  

Friday, March 13, 2015

Boy, 14, Attacked By Group With Baseball Bat In Queens Park


By Geoffrey Croft

A 14-year-old male hispanic was attacked by three other male hispanic teens in Equity Park yesterday evening at approximately 5:50pm.

The victim was stuck in the head with a baseball bat according to police.

The teen was taken to Jamaica Hospital and suffered head trauma injuries. 

The 1.6 acre park is located between 88/89th Avenues & 91st Street in Woodhaven, Queens adjacent to P.S. 60. 

The three assailants  fled southbound on 90th Street. They are described as 14, and 15-years-old, between 5'6 & 5'7.

One of the suspects is known to the victim.

No arrests have been made. The investigation is ongoing. 

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Court Rules Citi-Bike In Petrosino Square Can Stay

Admirers photograph Carole Feuerman’s Survival of Serena an exhibition in the artist space located at the northern part of Petrosino Square on Lafayette Street and Cleveland Pl. between Kenmare & Spring Streets at the intersection of SoHo, Little Italy, and Chinatown.  (Photos: Geoffrey Croft/NYC Park Adovcates) 

The City surreptitiously installed a 32-dock Citi-Bike docking station (below) in April 2013 which replaced park space that had been dedicated to art installations since 1985, and even though there is an alternative location fro the bikes directly across the street. 


By Geoffrey Croft

In yet another strange ruling from the Supreme Court  Appellate Division First Department involving a parkland alienation case the court ruled that a controversial Citi-Bike docking station in Petrosino Square can stay.

"The trial court erred in failing to acknowledge the distinctions between recreational bicycling and bike-share commuting, which, though similar in instrumentality, serve completely different purposes," Plaintiffs argued. 

The Court did not agree.

The Appellate Division found that the bike share station served a proper park purpose of allowing members of the public to ride and dock a Citi-Bike at Petrosino Square, where they may “enjoy the Park as a respite, a spot for a meal or even as their final destination.”

In other words because the public can theoretically ride a Citi-Bike to the square where they can theoretically use the sitting area the docking station constitutes a "park purpose."  So even though that is clearly NOT the purpose of Citi-Bike nor how the bikes are used there the transportation bike sharing program can stay.

And to add insult to injury, bike riding is prohibited in Petrosino Square according to the Parks Department.    

Section §1-05 Regulated Uses states that, "No bicycle...shall be ridden or otherwise operated in a pedestrian way, park path, sitting area..."

In 2013 Plaintiffs filed suit arguing that the city ignored state "parkland alienation" law and its own regulations when they installed Citi Bike racks in tiny Petrosino Square, a Parks Department owned property on  Lafayette Street in SoHo.   The suit alleged that the Department of Transportation and the Parks Department improperly failed to get necessary approval from the state Legislature to use parkland for a non-park purpose.

During the suit Corporation Council had absurdly tried to argue that the Square belonged to the Department of Transportation. 

Several requests seeking comment from the City's Law Department were not returned.  Attempts to reach Plaintiffs and their lawyer were also unsuccessful. 

"This is not a legitimate park purpose for Petrosino Square. It's an outrageous violation of law," Plaintiff's lawyer Randy Mastro, Gibson Dunn's senior managing partner said last month.

The Citi-Bike docking station was installed in the middle of the night on April  27, 2013. 

Read More:

A Walk In The Park - February 16, 2015 - By Geoffrey Croft 

A Walk In The Park - October 15, 2013  - By Geoffrey Croft 

A Walk In The Park - May 28, 2013 - By Geoffrey Croft 

A Walk In The Park - December 3, 2012 - By Geoffey Croft