Today it all ends. The last visitor will come through the
gates. The lights will be extinguished. The fountains will be
turned off. The world's fair will become a memory.
Some will say "good riddance." Others will cry softly
in their beer in an aura of sweet, sad nostalgia.
The New York show may be the last of the really big fairs.
It was spread over 643 acres. Just short of $1 billion was invested
in it, if one includes the cost of the highway network that surrounds
Flushing Meadow and that will remain as a legacy of the fair.
The fair's strong point was the substantial participation
of American industry. United States companies put just short
of $500 million into Flushing Meadow.
Thus the fair had the backbone of a solid exposition. In keeping
with modern concepts of display, there was little that was static
in the pavilions. People were given rides backwards and forwards
in time, stages revolved, motion pictures were projected on multiple
screens, people bobbed along in little boats through a child's
Because the fair was not officially recognized by a body that
governs participation at international expositions, foreign representation
was not notable. Exceptional in this respect was Spain. Where
most other countries were represented by private business groups,
Spain's Government was an official participant.
As a result, outstanding Spanish art was brought to the United
States, along with troops of Spain's best dancers. The architectural
design of the Spanish Pavilion was widely praised and as a result,
Spain feels it will realize a great tourist harvest.
The amusement area of the fair was a notable failure. Robert
Moses said that this was because the paid attractions there could
not compete with the free attractions in the industrial areas.
Others said that Mr. Moses's regulations that permitted none
of the traditional midway girly hanky-panky caused the failure.
Mr. Moses predicted a two-year attendance at the fair of 70
millions. He will get just above 50 million.
With its center at the Flushing Meadow site, Mr. Moses had
planned to use $23 million of a projected surplus of just under
$50 to construct a chain of parks in Queens.
At this stage the fair corporation, which operates with all
the secrecy of an army in battle with an enemy, will not give
figures on is precise financial condition.
What is firm knowledge is that its audited books showed a
loss of $17,540,100 for the first season. The fair tightened
its belt, pared its budget and raised its admission price from
$2 to $2.50 in its second [season].
But the attendance this season will be 3 million less than
last season and roughly 60 per cent of all admissions will be
by ticket purchased in advance of the first season (from which
the fair derives no fresh revenue), so even with the boom attendance
during the final days, the fair corporation is not reaping any
Twenty-five per cent of the fair's $29,829,000 in notes were
paid off at midseason 1964. How much more if any more, will be
paid back, Mr. Moses is not prepared to say.
But Mr. Moses is a determined man. He is determined that Queens
shall have its parks. To this end he is planning to take funds
from the rich Triboro Bridge and Tunnel Authority (of which he
The park will not be the extensive one that Mr. Moses had
originally envisaged. The city will have to provide most of the
funds for that eventual park
In sum, as far as city finances are concerned, the fair will
have cost the city $23 million in permanent improvements -- sewers,
cables, and the like -- that were installed under Flushing Meadow
and, perhaps an additional $17 million to build the park that
Mr. Moses had promised.
In terms of tourist business to the city and the good will
of holding an international exposition and the resulting park,
$40 million does not represent a large investment.
In fact if it were not for Mr. Moses's cantankerous nature,
New York and New Yorkers might be well satisfied with the fair
and the modest park that it will leave in its wake.
But Mr. Moses loves a verbal battle.
In 40 years of public life he has quarreled with every governor
of the state (save Alfred E. Smith whom he much admired), written
tough and sarcastic letters to every newspaper publisher in town,
crossed swords with a wide variety of public officials and public
figures, including, of late, Mayor Wagner, Traffic Commissioner
Henry Barnes and City Controller Abraham I. Beam.
"The prophets and early croaker of doom as usual were
wrong," is the one way that Mr. Moses sums up the achievements
of his fair. It will remain for history to decide whether Mr.
Moses was right or whether his critics were right. Or whether
there was a measure of truth on both sides.