The former city of lights in Flushing Meadow today is a city of litter.
A lonely wind toys with the piles of rubbish, left-over brochures, discarded food and drink containers and other debris that still dot the site that was the New York World's Fair until six weeks ago.
Occasionally several dozen people return to attend an auction held at some half-emptied pavilion. But the throngs are gone and "it's sad" -- as one visitor said yesterday -- to see what they left behind.
The debris and scraps of garbage, some postfair frequenters contend, are making the deserted fairgrounds a haven for rats.
"I've seen rats, big ones, running around here," said Johnny Fadul, who keeps an eye on the Philippine pavilion. He said some rats have come into his office through a hole in the wall.
Rodent Control Started
According to Rolf Hanson of the World's Fair Corporation's engineering department, a rodent-control program has been instituted. Pavilion owners have been advised to spread poisons and clean up debris as soon as possible, Hanson said, and considerable progress has been made in the past two weeks.
Demolition of fair pavilions, restaurants and other construction, however, is running a little behind schedule, one fair official said. Most of the contracts between the corporation and private exhibitors called for the exhibitors to clear the grounds by Jan. 17, 90 days after the fair closed.
"But due to all sorts of problems," Mr. Hanson said last week, "only one exhibit has been completely demolished so far -- the Long Island Rail Road." Since then, the Swiss Sky Ride and several pavilions have hit the ground.
Among the demolition difficulties listed by Mr. Hanson were lack of money on the part of exhibitors to hire wreckers and conflicts over nonunion labor.
One problem no official could have anticipated cropped up Nov. 5 when workmen were tearing down the Moroccan pavilion.
An Undesirable Item
The men stumbled over an unmarked crate. The lid moved ever so slightly. when the crate was opened, an Egyptian cobra popped up.
The startled workmen slammed the lid back down, called the police, who called the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals who called the city Health Department. Health officials looked at six cobras and called the Bronx Zoo. Yesterday four surviving cobras were residing in the Bronx.
Other remnants of the once-glittering fairgrounds are slowly being scattered around and about New York.
Some fair visitors, enamoured of a particular piece of sculpture, a light fixture, table or chair, have been returning to the fairgrounds since the closing to negotiate purchases with pavilion owners.
Others have come back for the public auctions held in pavilions by contractors who purchased the buildings and whatever they contained from the exhibitors.
At the Indonesian Pavilion, for example, 126 whisky sour glasses went for 18 cents apiece. Other merchandise auctioned included one-pound cans of spices, a few stone gargoyles, a stuffed snake wrapped around a debarked tree and a dozen or more restaurant carts.
Meanwhile, a 38-year-old bachelor was making plans for the demolition of what may someday be his home -- the Philippine Pavilion.
Bargain of Sorts
The buyer, Garrett Cashman, said he considers his purchase of the round pavilion to be a bargain, although he refused to reveal how much he paid.
"Someday I may be the poorest man ever to have lived in such an expensive home." said Mr. Cashman, who will store the dismantled pavilion on Long Island until he finds an appropriate site upon which to reconstruct it.
Even though some looting has been reported, security regulations have been relaxed to permit legitimate buyers to drive trucks and station wagons onto the grounds to pick up large purchases.
But at least one buyer said the he had to enlist the aid of three friends to carry a 10-foot stone statue to the nearest exit because he was not allowed to drive into the fair.
Pinkerton police are keeping a 24-hour watch throughout the 646-acre fair site and at every gate to be sure only authorized persons enter the grounds and leave with merchandise in tow.
Officers said that police problems are minor now that the fair is closed. There have been no instances of vandalism or attempted break-ins, a Pinkerton spokesman said.
On weekends, a few youngsters have tried to climb the cyclone fence into the fair. But they have been quickly spotted by the police and ejected, the spokesman said.
The fair site will eventually be turned into Flushing Meadow Park, which corporation officials hope will be open to the public by midsummer.