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Don Cavaioli

Broken spoke cables on the Unisphere orbital rings

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Hi everyone!

I noticed a couple of broken spoke wires that hold the orbital rings around the unisphere. There's probably a good deal of multiple redundancy so it shouldn't be an imminent problem but all the same, not good.

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I didn't see any Parks employees around to tell about this. I'll make a call to 311 in the morning to get a phone number to report this to.

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It is remarkable a visitor to the park would notice this but no park employees seem to be aware. Would a national park employee fail to notice that the Statue of Liberty had a cracked copper plate or the roof of Ford's Theatre had a leak? Somehow, Don's photographs provide a metaphor of how poorly NYC has maintained that park. I think it is great Don saw this and made a telephone call. Let's start a pool and guess how long it will take NYC parks dept. to do something--anything-- about this.

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We noticed the cables last week. To be honest, I would not think this repair is within the scope of Parks Department. I would think an outside contractor would have to be called in since its more than just putting a bolt in, there is likely a specific tension needed for this to work right and the cable anchor may be damaged. It is possible that this is in the works already and may take some time for the proper equipment and skills to be brought in.

From what I gather in our interactions with Park Dept. employees, they do care about the park and its contents, they just don't have the resources to keep up so easily. Less than 20 full timers (one parks dept guy told me 13) for FMCP and close to 200 for Central Park....

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The fact that the City does not have or does not allocate the resources or people to maintain this park is not at all a surprise. No matter what its financial state, the City has always neglected the park. To divide it up and allow private development, would solve many of the City's issues with the place. In any event, that thing has to be repaired.

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I sent an e-mail to Parks and got a service request number so if I don't hear back, I can follow up on it. Figured it was a better option than playing phone tag and there's a record of the report. I'll keep everyone posted.

I think the damage is more from age then neglect, the Unisphere is pushing 50 in a humid, salty environment not to mention some rough weather over the years. You can't see it on my photos, but one wire is just dangling down and the other is wrapped once around the ring so that wire must have snapped under tension. In any event, something should be done to repair it or it won't be long ( a few good gusty storms or another hurricane) until more wires snap then down comes the orbital ring.

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The Unisphere was widely advertised as stainless steel, but that doesn't mean the wires and nuts and bolts are all stainless steel. Does anybody know?

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Well, I know that when I turned fifty (and I have always lived in a humid climate with wild temperature swings from summer to winter) I began to fall apart. I believe my warranty expired that year.

Was the Unisphere completed by the end of 1963? There is a well known photo from the summer of 1963 showing the globe virtually finished with a workman dangling over it, I believe. But it still didn't have its orbital rings. Were they installed by December?

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From the Landmarks Preservation Commission designation report:
In late 1993 and early 1994,
the Parks Department restored the Unisphere, including the reflecting pool and its fountains, and new floodlighting was installed. The sphere itself was cleaned and stabilized, and the surrounding landscape was rehabilitated as part of a 3.6 million dollar restoration project at the park. The Unisphere remains one of the most prominent structural and landscape features of Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, as well as a striking visual reminder of the second of New York City's great World's Fairs.

I could have sworn that the rehab included the replacement of the cables. Looks like the nuts came off this time and I believe it's all Stainless steel.
Among the projects were the restoration of the Unisphere and its pool and fountains. Structural repairs to the sphere included replacement of the inner and outer cables and all loose rivets, and tightening and/or replacing all nuts and bolts. The globe was cleaned with a special solution and water under high pressure. The original 96 spray jets in the fountain at the base of the Unisphere were restored and two new 200 horsepower pumps and a timer were installed. The work, which was funded by the office of the Queens Borough President, was finished and the fountains were restarted on May 31, 1994.
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