Sixteen-year-old Joe Serigano performs with the West Babylon High School Band inside the New York State Pavilion during the 1964-65 World’s Fair.
In the 50 years since the New York State Pavilion was constructed for the 1964 World’s Fair in Flushing Meadows, N.Y., the architectural wonder has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places and featured in box office movies like “Men in Black” and “Iron Man 2.” But over time, the iconic landmark has been neglected, rundown and reduced to a rusty relic that looms over the New York City skyline.
Doosan Portable Power Regional Sales Director, Joe Serigano, was 16 years old the first time he set foot inside the New York State Pavilion.
“I played in my high school band under that facility in 1965. It meant a lot to me as a kid to go there and perform,” he said. “To watch it deteriorate has been sad.”
When Serigano heard about restoration efforts by the New York Structural Steel Painting Contractors Association (NYSSPCA), in conjunction with the New York City Parks Department, he wanted to play a part, just as he had with the band so many years before.
“I jumped at the chance to help because I remember the good times of being there. I see it in the distance every day on my way to work,” he said.
In its prime, the New York State Pavilion included the imposing “Tent of Tomorrow,” which consisted of 16 100-ft. (30.5 m) columns and a 50,000 sq. ft. cable suspension roof that supported multicolored panels. The brightly colored exterior of red and white stripes contrasted by vibrant yellow pillars could be seen for miles along the city skyline. Complementing the pavilion were three observation towers stretching 60, 150 and 226 ft. (18, 45.7 and 69 m) into the sky above Flushing Meadows.
By the 1970s, the multicolored roof panels became unstable and were removed due to safety concerns. Exposed to weather elements and vandals, the structure deteriorated and was eventually closed to the public.
Recent restoration efforts focused on the Tent of Tomorrow, providing a facelift and returning it to its original color, officially named “American Cheese” yellow. Labor was provided as a hands-on training opportunity for the NYSSPCA apprenticeship program, an effort that involved 160,000 sq. ft. of “very difficult access and complex rigging,” and required the use of lifts and air compressors, said Jed Coldon, executive director, NYSSPCA.
Providing the air compressor needed to complete the project was a joint effort between Serigano and Doosan Portable Power dealer Walter S. Pratt & Sons Inc. The Rensselaer, New York-based equipment rental company donated the use of a Doosan Portable Power HP750 air compressor from the company’s rental fleet for the duration of the restoration.
Not only did the donation by Pratt & Sons save the project approximately $4,500 in equipment rental costs, but Coldon said the air compressor was “essential to the completion of the project. Without the HP750, the project would’ve taken twice as long.” The variable pressure and high volume cfm made it possible for multiple apprentices and licensed contractors to complete their work simultaneously with just one air compressor.
Twelve professional steel painters and apprentices saw the project to completion — working eight-hour days, six days a week for three months for a grand total of 6,912 manpower hours. In the end, the group got it done with 2,500 gallons of American Cheese yellow paint, an air compressor and aerial lifts.
Now complete, the restoration efforts have turned back the clock on the New York State Pavilion. The finished product has sparked interest in further renovations and improvements to the three towers. If all goes according to plan, more opportunities will surface for the NYSSPCA, Doosan Portable Power and others to play a role in transforming what was once considered a rusty relic into a defining landmark along the New York City skyline — something Serigano can be proud to see on his way to work every day.