World’s Fair map could be in peril

Benepe viewing World's Fair Map

Benepe viewing World's Fair Map

From NY Daily News


The city has let ice blanket a faux-marble road map from the 1964 World’s Fair multiple times this winter instead of dishing out $20,000 to protect the cartographic curiosity, Queens News has learned.

Preservationists fear frost will dislodge or fracture panels on the 9,000-square-foot map in the New York State Pavilion, a crumbling, yet iconic, relic of the fair in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park.

Even more galling to preservationists is that conservators devised a shelter plan for the map just last year — to bury its panels under fabric, sand and gravel, blocking water and sunlight that feeds crack-widening weeds. But the city still hasn’t carried it out.

The interior of the New York State Pavillion in Flushing Meadows Corona Park where a giant roadmap of New York State from the 1964 Worlds Fair is in danger of cracking due to extreme weather conditions.

The interior of the New York State Pavillion in Flushing Meadows Corona Park where a giant roadmap of New York State from the 1964 Worlds Fair is in danger of cracking due to extreme weather conditions.

“I don’t understand why it’s taking so long,” said Professor Frank Matero, a preservation expert at the University of Pennsylvania, who helped develop the never-implemented program.

John Krawchuk, historic preservation director for the Parks Department, said the city bought enough fabric and some sand for Matero’s plan, but stopped $20,000 short of paying for all the required materials.

He admitted the city has the cash but decided to direct it elsewhere. “We have many needs throughout the entire parks system that are always competing for funds,” he said.

Instead, the city is hoping Flushing Meadows-Corona Park Administrator Estelle Cooper can raise $20,000 through a park-oriented nonprofit she runs, before springtime sun nourishes the weeds, Krawchuk said.

But preservationists wondered how the city undertook a project to remove and restore parts of the 567-panel map in 2007 — through a $40,000 grant and $80,000 in city funds — with little foresight for the rest of the map.

The city’s refusal to foot the $20,000 bill reminded history buffs of how the once-grand pavilion was allowed to deteriorate for four decades after the fair closed in 1965.

“It really shows neglect is a theme with this structure,” said Greg Godfrey, president of the Flushing Meadows-Corona Park World’s Fair Association.

“If their end result was to preserve [the map], why would you start ripping out parts without having a strategy for the entire?” Godfrey asked.

Contractor Vincent DeLazzero, whose late father, Robert, built the road map while heading Bronx-based Port Morris Tile & Terrazzo, also blasted the city’s disregard for the panels.

“It’s a treasure,” said DeLazzero, adding he would have helped raise $20,000 if the city had contacted him. “There’s never been anything like it.”

Meanwhile, the city is reviewing the results of a $200,000 study on the stability of the pavilion’s Tent of Tomorrow rotunda — the columns and cable-suspension roof that surround the map.

“Demolition is always a possibility,” Krawchuk warned

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