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NY State Pavilion

Ruins of the New York State Pavilion from the 1964 New York World’s Fair, Flushing Meadows Park, Queens. Photo by Matthew Silva via Kickstarter

You cannot think of Coney Island without the Parachute Jump, especially now that it is illuminated nightly. Last night, it was bathed in sea green and blue light to celebrate the Seattle Seahawks Super Bowl win. But the iconic tower, which was moved to Coney after first thrilling visitors at the 1939-1940 New York World’s Fair in Queens, stopped operating as a ride after Steeplechase Park closed in 1964. The Jump endured nearly 40 years of neglect and threats of demolition before being rehabbed and lit with LEDs at a cost of $8.5 million during the Bloomberg administration.

Beginning in 2002, the City’s Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) and Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz championed the landmark’s costly revamp as part of their plan to revitalize Coney Island. Will the ruins of the New York State Pavilion, an iconic structure from the 1964 New York World’s Fair in Queens’ Flushing Meadows Park, which the Parks Department says would cost $14 million to demolish and $52 million to restore, find a plan and a champion to underwrite the cost of saving it?

“World’s Fair buildings are not designed to be permanent. They’re meant to be taken down again,” says a voice at the beginning of the trailer for Matthew Silva’s documentary Modern Ruin about the Pavilion. “Somehow there’s always something nobody wants to tear down, and in this case the New York State Pavilion was one.”

The voice is that of Frank Sanchis, director of the World Monuments Fund, which included architect Philip Johnson’s pavilion on their 2008 Watch List. The Tent of Tomorrow is in imminent danger of collapse due to the deterioration of the exposed steel structure and the decay of the wood piles that serve as the building’s foundation, according to WMF, which successfully nominated the Pavilion for inclusion in the State Register of Historic Places in 2009.

NY State Pavilion

The interior of the New York State Pavilion, designed by Philip Johnson, at the 1964 World’s Fair in New York City. Photo: © Ezra Stoller/Esto/Yossi Milo Gallery

Now as the building approaches its 50th anniversary, it’s in the spotlight again after years of neglect. People for the Pavilion, a grassroots group dedicated to the preservation and reuse of the structure, hosted a kickoff event last month which drew over 200 people. Silva, who is one of the organization’s co-founders, launched a Kickstarter for his documentary about the pavilion, and raised more than $11,000 towards his goal of $30,000 in the first week. The Parks Department held two “listening sessions,” where people were invited to share their vision for the future of the Pavilion after listening to a presentation on recent structural studies that were completed on the Tent of Tomorrow and Towers.

“The reasons for its neglect are open to interpretation and kind of complicated,” said Silva, in an interview with ATZ. “But one could argue that it simply came down to money, poor post-fair planning, and the fact that the City almost went into default in the ’70s. When the city was in such bad financial shape, how could anyone justify pumping money into an old building from the World’s Fair? But here we are 50 years later and maybe now we can make the case for its rehabilitation and reuse.”

UPDATE February 4, 2014:

The Parks Department has posted links to their PowerPoint presentation, which was shown at the listening sessions, and a survey “in order to understand your vision for the future of the New York State Pavilion.” The survey will be posted on the webpage of Flushing Meadows Corona Park through March 15.

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Steeplechase Pier

Workers at Coney Island’s Sandy-damaged Steeplechase Pier, September 28, 2013. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

Over the weekend, word on the Boardwalk was that Steeplechase Pier, which has been under reconstruction since March due to damage sustained during Superstorm Sandy, would reopen on Tuesday. Work is almost complete and will be finished this week, according to the workers who were heading off the pier.

ATZ checked with the Parks Department today and the pier will indeed reopen sometime in October, though not on October 1st. The pier will need to be inspected first, a Parks Department official told ATZ. The 1,000-foot-pier is a popular spot for fishermen as well as for photographers, who were already making plans to return to their favorite spot tomorrow and will now have to wait a little bit longer. The pier had to be completely reconstructed post-Sandy and was originally expected to be finished by July.

Update: The pier reopened on Wednesday, October 2nd. Here are the first photos!

Steeplechase Pier

Work is Nearly Complete on Coney Island’s Sandy-damaged Steeplechase Pier, September 28, 2013. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

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Flyering for the Boardwalk, Not Sidewalk! October 14, 2012. Photo © me-myself-i/Tricia Vita via flickr

In advance of the Coney Island Boardwalk’s day in court on Thursday, a costumed character named Smart and Intrepid Egg Head passed out flyers on the Boardwalk about the October 25th hearing: “COME AND SHOW YOUR SUPPORT FOR A WOOD BOARDWALK!!!”” Printed in English, Russian and Spanish, the flyer says:

It is vitally important for us to have a large turnout present in the courtroom when our case is heard. It will indicate to the judge the widespread level of concern that exists with regard to the Park Department’s plan for the Boardwalk. BOARDWALK NOT SIDEWALK!

Our lawsuit: We claim that the Parks Department did not subject its plans for concreting over the Coney Island Boardwalk to the necessary state environmental review…

Thursday, October 25th, 9:45 AM Kings County Supreme Court, 360 Adams St. Downtown Brooklyn, Hearing Part number: 38. Judge: Martin Solomon. Closest subway stops: Court St, Jay St/Borough Hall.

We will meet outside the hearing room at 9:30AM sharp and then enter and sit together. RSVP 718-449-7017 or robburstein@hotmail.com.

Go to www.savetheboardwalk.wordpress.com for more info, to check for last minute date changes and to sign the petition!

In July, the advocacy groups Friends of the Boardwalk and Coney-Brighton Boardwalk Alliance along with neighborhood residents filed a lawsuit against the New York City Parks Department to stop the agency from replacing additional sections of the Coney Island Boardwalk with concrete and plastic wood. The Mayor’s Public Design Commission unanimously approved a ten-foot-wide Concrete Lane for so-called “emergency vehicles” and an adjoining Plasticwalk for a pilot project in Brighton Beach. Sections of the Boardwalk in Brighton Beach and Coney’s west end near Sea Gate are already a Concretewalk. You can see what it looks like here and here.

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July 13, 2012: Coney Island Boardwalk Advocates Sue Parks Department

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