Still The Fairgrounds

Park Brochure Cover

The site is still called "The Fairgrounds" by eye-in-the-sky reporters describing traffic conditions in the vicinity where the Grand Central Parkway and the Long Island Expressway meet in Queens -- much to the chagrin of the Parks Department who would prefer to have it called Flushing Meadows-Corona Park. To the people who traverse the highways of Long Island, Unisphere, the Heliport and the New York State Pavilion are unmistakable landmarks. As long as they stand, "Fairgrounds" will be a difficult handle to shake.

Flushing Meadows-Corona Park is 1,255 acres of recreational and cultural facilities. The reminders of the 1964/1965 New York World's Fair are everywhere. Some, like Unisphere and the Port Authority Heliport, now Terrace on the Park, are easy to spot.

Others, like the granite markers that identified the streets and avenues of the Fair, are overgrown with vegetation but are still legacies of the Fair awaiting discovery by nostaligic visitors.

Granite markers identify the streets of the Fair
Avenue Marker

Since 1987, a capital improvement program for the Park has been underway. Former New York City Parks Commissioner Henry Stern, Assistant Parks Commissioner for Queens Estelle Cooper and former Queens Borough President Claire Schulman have been the catalyst for the improvements that saw millions of dollars poured into the Queens Wildlife Center, Queens Museum of Art, Theater in the Park, the construction of three dinosaur-themed playgrounds, new Park entrances, restoration of the Fountains of the Fairs and Unisphere Fountains, restoration of statues (including Freedom of the Human Spirit and The Rocket Thrower) and a reconstruction of the Flushing Bay Marina area. A new children's play and storytelling area is being constructed on the site of the former Aquacade at Meadow Lake and work has begun on a new Ice Skating/Swimming Complex in the northeast corner of the Park that will allow for an exciting expansion of the Queens Museum in the New York City building.

Granite Plaza with sandblasted images of the Fair by Matt Mullican

Granite Plaza

Granite Plaza

At the base of Unisphere, spreading out toward the restored Fountains of the Fair and The Rocket Thrower, the Parks Department has installed a beautiful plaza in black granite that commemorates the Fairs of Flushing Meadows. In front of the Passerelle Building -- the entrance to the Park by rail -- is yet another commemorative Fair plaza, this one in tile. Despite their wishes that the Park be a Park and not a Fairgrounds, the Department does not overlook the importance of the Fairs to the Park.

Tile medallions in the Plaza at the Passerelle Ramp entrance to the Park commemorate the Fair.

Tile Plaza Medallion of Fountains of the Planets

Tile Plaza Medallion of Warhol's "Robert Moses"

There are the legacies still waiting for someone to care. The cesspool that was once The Pool of Industry and the rotting hulk of the New York State Pavilion stand in sharp contrast to the restored areas. These facilities will demand imagination and funding in order to make them into useful features again. One hopes that time won't run out before someone realizes that they too are the jewels that make up Flushing Meadows and should not be squandered.

Robert Moses said that Unisphere would remind succeeding generations that a "pageant of surpassing interest and significance" once took place at this site. May Flushing Meadows-Corona Park forever proudly carry the deserved title of "Fairgrounds."

    Unisphere Image Source: Flushing Meadow Corona Park Map and Guide. Summer 2000, © 2000-2006 City of New York Parks & Recreation, All Rights Reserved.
    Photo Images Source: © 2002-2006, Elizabeth Klug, All Rights Reserved.
    Photo Images Source: © 2002-2006, Phil Ras, All Rights Reserved.

More Content