Artie DeGennaro was eight years old when he went to the 1964 World’s Fair in Queens. He helped his dad shoot home movies from the top of the New York State Pavilion's observation towers.
Watching those movies now brings back great family memories, but seeing the dilapidated condition of the pavillion these days has had the opposite effect.
“It was kind of like, upsetting,” said DeGennaro.
But the city is about to spend $24 million to help preserve these once-futuristic towers, which were designed by renowned architect Philip Johnson. It will be the first significant investment in them since the World’s Fair.
While the work will reverse decades of deterioration, solidifying the structures, waterproofing the bases and adding architectural lighting, it won't be enough to allow people to go inside and actually use them, making the towers essentially a modern relic. But that's okay with preservations, at least for now.
“It’s a really meaningful first step in what we hope will be a long-term project to really recover the pavilion and really give it back to the public," said Aaron Asis, People for the Pavilion.
A 2009 study estimated it would cost $30 million to make the towers accessible and an additional $22 million dollars to bring the adjacent building, the ‘Tent of Tomorrow’ back to its former glory.
Tearing them down also would cost millions of dollars.
Members of the Pavilion Paint Project—volunteers who have spent a decade painting over graffiti and sprucing up the site…are credited by many for bringing renewed attention to the site.
“Paint goes a long way. It’s brighter than it was before; it’s kind of showing itself off saying ‘hey, I’m still here. I’m a vibrant part of the community," said Thomas Bleuzen, NY State Pavilion Paint Project.
“It was meant at one time to be preserved and to be reused and to be enjoyed by the public but the city fell into a financial crisis and that was the end of it," said Gary Miller, NY State Pavilion Paint Project.
For DeGennaro, the planned work is the first step to preserving his fond childhood memories for generations to come.
“Know what? Maybe like 200 years from now, it’ll be like the coliseum in Rome. People will come to New York and say my grandfather went there or my great-great grandfather went there," said DeGennaro.
The restoration is set to begin in October.