The opportunity to work on saving the
NY State Pavilion and rehabilitating it into an Air & Space
Museum was one of passion. I felt a missing dimension of my past
and a legacy of the future that I wanted to leave all New Yorkers
with. This project certainly had my juices flowing and adrenaline
pumping on a daily basis! It gave me tremendous energy and insight,
with tremendous amount of focus.
The talented and sincere people that
I developed relationships with, especially with Mr. Frankie Campione,
Mr. Bill Young, Mr. Alan Ritchie, and the Queens borough Presidents
Office staff, will always be treasured. There was no shortage
of determination, hope and discovering the purpose in life to
make this project into reality by us.
All in all, I don't think anyone on
our team was interested or concerned about fame or fortune. Personally
I desired to have an impact on individuals and society in a positive
way. Not to only save a building but to share the interest in
While Flushing Meadows Corona Park is
a very big part of my past (I grew up in Flushing) it is a park
by design. What I mean by this is people need recreational facilities
to relax and socialize in, to let their energy out and be with
friends and family. The park does shine for this very purpose.
At the same time the park has been rich in history from both
World's Fairs and by serving as the UN Headquarters. This shows
how versatile a park can really be. With that in mind, preserving
the remaining structures into something useful for all and adding
an attraction to bring people into the park was why Frankie and
I felt is was so important to save the pavilion.
In my opinion, what caused this project
to be pushed aside and not contracted to us was the lack of direction
from the Parks Department. We did everything they asked us to
do and MORE. That's a fact! For over 30 years the NY State Pavilion
has been an eyesore without excuse. Who's fault is it? One can
easily say lack of funds prevented the building from being maintained.
But that's an excuse for poor planning. Someone needs, at the
city level to take responsibility and make things right for all.
In ending, the words from Jim Rohn:
- Let others lead small lives, but
- Let others argue over small things,
but not you.
- Let others cry over small hurts,
but not you.
- Let other leave their future in
someone else's hands, but not you.
- Charles A. Aybar, PhD
- Scottsdale, AZ
- July, 2006
- "There is a crime here
that goes beyond denunciation.
- There is a sorrow here that
weeping cannot symbolize.
- There is a failure here
that topples all our success. "
So wrote John Steinbeck in the Grapes
of Wrath back in 1939, ironically the year of the first World's
Fair at Flushing Meadows. In the past four-plus years of working
on this project, Bill has called the little brushes of coincidence
"Providence." Charles calls them "destiny."
Me? I'm not that deep (OK maybe I am but not on the surface).
I wasn't born yet so I couldn't attend the 1964/1965 World's
Fair let alone the 1939. So how does a young architect in New
York come to play this part in a saga of bureaucratic inadequacy?
Simply put - Passion. I, like a lot of New Yorkers, fell
in love with a dream (strike one say my developer clients
- Never fall in love with your project). A dream that
I have passed by hundreds if not thousands of times on the LIE,
Grand Central Parkway and Van Wyck Expressway, unbuckled, sitting
on my knees with my face pressed against the window in the back
seat of an Oldsmobile, to and from the city with my folks. Today,
I'm passing by with my three-year-old staring at the same icon
from his plush, triple checked, Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval,
baby car seat-recliner. We stare at the same ruin the same way.
"New York's very own Stonehenge" as I have deemed it
- the New York State Pavilion.
"Mom there was a Fair here?
Like with rides? Do you have pictures? What's left? Can we go
see it? Nothing?!? Why not? Disney was here?? The same Disney
we go see every year?!?!? Now I really want to see it! It's not
safe? What do you mean? Dad take me
Why not? What's not
And so went the 70's. And off to college
I would go in the 80's during which I would stumble across a
bit of information from an elective class -- information I would
use a little over a decade later: The Central Park Conservancy's
Year 2000 Plan. Good thing I kept a copy. It's a "road
map" for any non-profit organization looking to make something
work when the local, city, state, and any other agency just can't.
And of course, we know it worked. Look at Central Park today!
Give the credit to the Parks Department, that's OK --
while four of five employees taking care of Central Park are
Conservancy employees, not NY City Park employees -- that's OK
So we will propose to do the same. We
don't want any credit; let them take the credit. We just want(ed)
action. The fact remains it worked and it worked right here in
New York on Park's property in Manhattan, so why wouldn't it
work again? To allow a non-Parks entity with a noble aim to assist
in Park's work.
It can. It should in the real world.
In a world where people learn from their mistakes and in a world
where people don't have hidden agendas and in a world where results
The debacle at the New York State Pavilion,
and throughout numerous projects at Flushing Meadows, tells you
that results matter perhaps in Manhattan -- but not in Queens.
Not in the park that houses the main headquarters for the Parks
Department. Not in our own backyard. Not in the park that we
pretend is so beautiful for only a few short weeks during the
USTA's US Open Tennis Tournament when we light and fill
the reflecting pools and then keep them drained for the other
eleven months of the year. Not in the park that allowed the USTA
to turn its back on it. Not in the park that allows the Hall
of Science to expand, while under the same breath states "no
more museums!" (We suggested using the NY State Pavilion
for the Hall of Science expansion space and were quickly told
"do not go there.") Not in the park that so proudly
boasts astro-turf soccer fields with the maple leaf Park Logo
in the LaGuardia Airport flight path. (But when we had a major
airline willing to put advertising on the top of the pavilion
in return for a springboard to stabilization funding we were
told "no advertising in the park." But go ahead and
allow naming rights to the new Mets stadium located within parks
property and of course that will be OK.)
Before I sound like a whining little
architect with no clout, understand this about CREATE: We have
consistently ranked in the top 25 retail firms nationwide for
the past six of our total nine years of being in business. Last
year, I was ranked one of the "40 Under 40 Persons to Watch
in the Retail Industry." I tell this not to boast, but so
that no reader thinks CREATE is just some "young paper architect
with a dream." We have designed and have built literally
over a million, if not millions, of square feet of commercial
work in the time we have spent working on the NY State Pavilion.
However in Queens we unfortunately have nothing to show for our
efforts. This is the failure I parallel with Steinbeck.
Above I noted "in a real world."
In the real world there are deadlines, budgets, and, most importantly,
consequences. Clients have funding and bring a project to fruition.
They set deadlines and meet (or in our case beat) them. A dormant
property makes no money. It's a liability and liabilities have
consequences. People lose jobs for lack of product, lack of innovation.
Plain and simple -- for the lack of doing a job! The NY State
Pavilion is a liability. Don't kid yourself. The Parks Department
knows it. However it's a non-issue. It doesn't cost anything
in the shape it's in. It doesn't make or loose money. The fact
that Parks could not see past the immediate future to the long
term residual effect our proposal would have accomplished for
them is, to be blunt, short sighted. The Pavilion in its present
shape is a decimal point on the annual budget. It will only become
an issue when further deterioration forces a situation. I pray
it's not catastrophic.
I'm not as eloquent as Charles. I don't
have to be. I get to draw pretty pictures and make them stand
up. I ramble. I run around. I beat myself up at all hours of
the night making schedules, producing product. Charles has always
tried to make me see a light at the end of the tunnel. I have
made a good friend. For that I thank him even if the light has
Bill has been my sounding board. He
manages his day job, his family and the most unbelievable website
one can find -- not just on the 64/65 World's Fair but if one
just understands his undertaking and the information the site
provides on a general level, it's a font of information gathered
from thousands and thousands of sources. And here's Bill's biggest
secret - he never even went to the Fair but you would assume
he is based across the street in Queens! Bill has kept all the
records of our plight over the four plus years. He recalled with
accuracy my first "dial up modem" transmission explaining
we were a firm in New York that could help. Little did I know
then that you can't save someone from themselves. Bill, I am
eternally grateful to have played a small part in your history
of the Park. I truly, truly wish we could have done more.
So why now? Why end here? The last timeline
entry states "Parks has raised $ 40,000!" Tell them
to triple that, and let me know when they put forth half the
effort we have.
"Hey you! You're reading this
and you want to help? You didn't know all this was going on?
You don't get the NY Times
and you live in Indiana and went to the Fair as a kid? What can
you do to help? Who do you write to? There has to be something
What happened to investigative reporting? Doesn't anyone want
to crack this thing?"
All I can say now is, "Guys ...
been there, done that."
But in case you need us we're still
here as well. We're about to sign another ten year lease in the
Chrysler Building. Come look us up.
But here you go Dulcinea: I'm
done chasing windmills. It's your turn. Hey! I just looked it
up on Google. That's from "Man of La Mancha,"
1965. Destiny? Providence? Nah, just dumb luck.
- Frankie Campione, AIA, Principal
- CREATE Architecture Planning &
- New York, NY
- July, 2006
I became acquainted with Charles Aybar
in the Spring of 2000. I had created a website called nywf64.com as an attempt
to document the 1964/1965 New York World's Fair, its importance
to our nation's cultural history and its legacies, both tangible
and intangible. Charles came across the website and contacted
me because of his interest in the Fair and, specifically, the
New York State Pavilion constructed for the Fair. Very few tangible
legacies remain. The most prominent among the few however is
the Philip Johnson designed New York State Pavilion -- a monolithic
12-story open-air structure long abandoned and left to deteriorate
on the old World's Fair site in Flushing, Queens, by the Parks
Department of the City of New York.
Charles had developed a life-long love
for the building as a Flushing teenager employed by the concessionaire
of the New York State Pavilion in the early 1970s when the building
was being used as a roller skating rink called the Roller
Round. As an adult he was thoroughly disgusted with the New
York City Parks Department's thirty years of neglect and obvious
lack of interest in the building. He told me that he had an idea
for a reuse for the building.
Dr. Aybar earned his degree in marketing
and was employed as the Executive Vice-President of Sales &
Marketing for an aviation consulting firm in Phoenix, Arizona.
He was keenly aware of the public's fascination with aviation
and space. The National Air & Space Museum in Washington,
D.C. consistently ranks as one of America's top museums. The
Kennedy Space Center draws millions of visitors each year. The
New York State Pavilion's 12-stories of open air could be a natural
showcase for aviation related displays. Flushing Meadows-Corona
Park is already home to two popular museums: the Queens Museum
of Art and the New York City Hall of Science. The proximity of
Flushing Meadows to New York's airports, with airplanes flying
low overhead day and night, makes it a perfect site for such
a museum. New York City was the cradle for commercial aviation
in America. Charles felt that the New York State Pavilion could
become an Air & Space Museum and he told me in an email in
December, 2000, that he was going to begin work to try to make
this a reality. He would use his industry contacts to try to
secure some private funding for renovation and reuse.
I was excited and intrigued by his idea.
The vision of seeing a restored New York State Pavilion from
the Long Island Expressway fully illuminated at night with glistening
aircraft suspended in mid-air within the pavilion was one that
I could not get out of my mind; though it seemed impossible that
one man could turn thirty years of neglect into making such a
dream come true.
A few days later, quite "out of
the blue," Frankie Campione contacted me. Frankie is the
principal of the Manhattan architectural firm CREATE Architecture
Planning and Design. A native of Long Island, Frankie had
been traveling the Long Island Expressway to and from Manhattan
since he was a small child and was always fascinated by the space
age structures left over from the Fair and the "big globe"
in the Park as he rode by. One afternoon in late December, 2000,
he decided to pull off of the expressway and explore the Park
and its World's Fair legacies a bit further. As he looked at
the wreck that the New York State Pavilion had become he felt
he had to do something to try to save it. When he got home that
evening he did an internet search on the Fair and came across
website and my email contact
there. Quite simply Frankie asked me "What can we do to
save the New York State Pavilion?"
I have often felt that it was Providence,
therefore, that brought Charles Aybar and Frankie Campione together.
That one would conceive an idea and, within just a few days through
a mutual contact at an obscure website on the 1964/1965 World's
Fair, be able to team with a partner who could bring ideas into
reality with design and engineering concepts, seemed more than
just coincidence to me.
I am honored to know Charles and Frankie.
The word that best describes them is integrity. They are
honest men who had an idea and a dream. The dream was sincere.
They were not seeking personal gain and wished only to do something
good for the community and to try to save something that each
viewed as an important part of their personal history. They worked
earnestly for four years to try to make that dream to restore
the NY State Pavilion a reality and spent thousands of dollars
of their own money on engineering studies, lawyer fees, phone
calls and meetings.
The partnership and friendships formed
in 2000 through a website connection culminated in a four-year
effort to restore the New York State Pavilion at Flushing Meadows.
At this time, the true success of this project is that the New
York City Department of Parks & Recreation can no longer
hide behind their thirty years of indifference, neglect and lack
of imagination toward the New York State Pavilion. A spotlight
has been turned on and focused on the New York State Pavilion
at last! Let us hope that Park Commissioners Adrian Benepe and
Estelle Cooper will be able to one day stand on the dedication
stage of a renovated and revitalized New York State Pavilion.
It is up to them now to make that dream become a reality.
That is the least they owe Campione and Aybar for
their outstanding efforts.
- Bill Young, Host
- Website of the 1964/1965 New York World's
- July, 2006