This week is the 50th anniversary of the 1964 World’s Fair, and as a special treat, the pavilion from that fair was opened today for the first time since 1987, allowing visitors to Flushing Meadows-Corona Park in Queens to don a hardhat and step inside.
But, as with so many great activities in New York, it was hobbled by everyone wanting to do it.
The pavilion was to be open between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. By nine o’clock there were 50 people in line already, according to a post on Facebook. By eleven, the line had crossed the Grand Central Parkway, with a minimum wait time of at least three hours, according to a Parks Department worker on site. Every parking lot near the site was jammed, and officials were trying to direct a massive snake of traffic through the park’s one-lane streets, with limited success. Robert Moses is creating congestion from beyond the grave.
Moses used the ’64 World’s Fair as an excuse to build Flushing Meadows Park, a distinctly Moses creation criss-crossed with roads, parking lots and three expressways. In The Power Broker, Robert Caro’s epic evisceration of Moses’ legacy, the chapter on the World’s Fair and the park it spawned pulls no punches in criticizing Moses’ methods.
The line to get into the pavilion on April 22.
Yet that chapter is one of the rare moments where it feels like Caro is reaching for things to denounce. The Fair’s management was plagued with cronyism and waste, for sure, but the revenue it generated was ultimately used to build the fourth biggest park in the city (on a site that was previously an ash dump) in a borough that doesn’t often get showered with expensive gifts. Today it’s impossible to imagine Queens without Flushing Meadows Park. I highly recommend the trip — just not today. Instead, enjoy these vintage photos from the Fair fifty years ago, when it appears less crowded than it is right now.
Photo credit: PLCjr via Flickr
Photo credit: Karen Horton via Flickr
Photo credit: Wikipedia
Will Doig was formerly Next City’s international editor. He's worked as a columnist at Salon, an editor at The Daily Beast, a lecturer at the New School, and a communications staffer at the Open Society Foundations. He is the author of High-Speed Empire: Chinese Expansion and the Future of Southeast Asia, published by Columbia Global Reports.