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September 10, 2001


Express Concerns Over Parks Commissioner's Comments


Saying that the building is "not used and serves no practical purpose" New York Parks Commissioner Henry Stern has indicated that he would like to have the funds budgeted to tear down the Tent of Tomorrow, the main structure of the New York State Pavilion at Flushing Meadows - Corona Park.

Stern's comments appeared in the September 6, 2001 edition of the Queens Chronicle* in an article featuring a proposal by two visionaries to stabilize and renovate the long abandoned park structure into a world class Air and Space Museum for the City of New York.

Dr. Charles Aybar, Ph.D. an aviation professional from Scottsdale, Arizona and Mr. Frankie J. Campione, AIA, NCARB, Principal of CREATE Architecture Planning & Design in Manhattan, have developed a proposal to make the old World's Fair structure usable again. Their plans call for converting the 12-story high building into a modern museum featuring aviation and space related displays. Citing the location of the building, the design of the structure and popularity of such museums, Aybar and Campione feel that it is a fitting reuse of the building.

Aybar and Campione have met numerous times with City and Park officials and continue to wish to do so in an attempt to amicably find a solution to stabilize the existing structure; an expense that both Campione and Aybar feel lies within the responsibility of the City and Parks Department as landlord of the structure since the World's Fair closed in 1965.

They have enlisted the services of Meyer Consulting Engineers of Rockville, Maryland who have demonstrated to the Parks Department how stabilization efforts could be equal to, if not less than, the cost of demolition and have had success in similar ventures in Baltimore. Meyer Engineers, a structural engineering firm, has also been involved in the restoration of the Lincoln and Jefferson memorials in Washington DC as well as stabilization of the historic Camden Yard warehouse at Oriole Park in Baltimore, Maryland.

"There is no doubt that a world class Air and Space Museum would generate considerable revenue" said Mr. Campione. "One can point to the success of the National Air and Space Museum in Washington DC as a prime example of the popularity of such a facility. That museum is the Number One museum in the world drawing over nine million visitors a year. A similar museum in New York could have a comparable attendance draw. On the other hand a vacant lot left by the demolition of the structure has no potential use and is a waste of funds that would be better spent to stabilize the building for a possible reuse."

The two point out that the pavilion is a City and Borough Landmark. The city used the building's image to promote New York as a vacation spot in advertisements that have been seen as far away as Australia and the popularity of the 'Men in Black' film, which prominently featured the pavilion, has solidified its image as an icon. They contend that if the structure is demolished Queens will loose a part of its identity and New Yorkers will loose a part of their cultural heritage.

"We can't understand why the Parks Department would consider demolition while there is a viable reuse proposal on the table," says Aybar. Aybar and Campione say they are awaiting resolution of the stabilization issues so that they can begin to put together a not-for profit organization to address redevelopment and funding. They contend no such thing is possible with the building in the condition it is in and the City and Parks Department not willing to bear the costs of stabilization.

"Obviously we cannot solicit funding for the reuse with the present condition of the structure uncertain and without the permission to move forward, " says Campione. "We are looking to work with the present officials in office and those that may enter come November. We were told it was a shame we weren't there two years ago upon first presenting the project to officials, to which we responded 'isn't it better than coming two years from now?'"

An internet website has been established at to further explain and illustrate the museum proposal and as a means to provide a way for interested parties to contact City and Parks officials to ask that the building be saved. Aybar and Campione feel that favorable public opinion will be needed to save the building. The website will be updated weekly as progress is made.

Both Aybar and Campione remain dedicated to saving the pavilion noting "Past proposals have never reused the entire structure nor remained true to the architectural integrity originally designed by famed architect Philip Johnson. From what we were told by officials, previous proposals were of limited scope and imagination to bring people to the renovated building and make an investment by the City to fix it up worthwhile. We believe this proposal accomplishes all of these objectives."

When asked about parking by the Parks Department CREATE did state they did not want to be presumptuous and master plan the corner of the park without a positive reaction by officials. However, they are ready to move forward with the City's permission. "The only thing we want to promote is an innovative and imaginative reuse of the building."

* Queens Chronicle on-line reference: