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RalphQuinn

Flushing Meadows 1972 #5

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At the head of the Fountains of the Fairs, the Rocket Thrower was still taking aim.

 

 

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The lovely fountains were turned off and capped, leaving the empty pool to serve as a playground and trash bin. 

 

 

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Approaching the Court of the Universe, I chanced to capture a jet approaching LaGuardia Airport. A day or two earlier I sat in a jet in that same area to record the first three pictures in the Flushing Meadows series.

 

 

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One of the two impressively tall flag poles at the head of the Fountain of Industry.

 

 

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Looking desolate, the Fair's largest pool sprouted some sort of structure I didn't recognize. The trash barrel added its garish effect to the scene.

 

 

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My scribbled notes in 1972 indicated this was where General Motors stood, but I haven't confirmed its accuracy.

 

 

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Teeing off at the House of Good Taste. Who knows, maybe he's in the living room of the Contemporary Home.

 

 

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I took two pictures here--and I don't even play golf! Go figure.

 

 

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My tall New York friend was dwarfed by the ancient column from Jerash, Jordan, which was generously donated to Flushing Meadows after the Fair. This Corinthian-styled structure appears to be in six separate, stacked sections. A closer look reveals that there are two other viewers sitting directly behind the base. (I might note that my Fair Guide Book spells it "Jarash," but Wikipedia takes exception. 

 

 

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The pillar thrusts its classic head toward an ominous sky. I think I read somewhere that it was called the Whispering Tower of Jerash, and that might be borne out by the little hole or two at the top, and certain depressions in the column, given a voice by the action of the wind. This is only one of many impressive Roman columns in the village of Jerash.  

 

 

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Interesting that the fountain nozzles were capped in 1972.  On Park Re-Opening Day in 1967, we have a photo or two showing them blasting away in all their glory.  Something happened in the next five years I guess, to cause Parks to cap them.

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May 1970-

looks like they not only had the fountains going, but some kind of fountains shooting up in the air down at the Pool of Industry too.

 

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What happened to cause the fountains to be shut off and the Park to become so dreary is that NYC slipped toward bankruptcy.  By 1975, NYC government could barely meet its payroll obligations, thousands were furloughed or laid off completely, city services were reduced and the City applied for a federal bailout.  President Ford vetoed a full bailout package.  Thus the infamous Daily News headline:  Ford To City:  Drop Dead.  The last place NYC was going to spend any money was Flushing Meadow Park.  The enormous expenditures on the part of the City to develop the land and to provide all of the essential services for two fairs helped to lead NYC to its financial mess in the 1970s.  It was, as New Yorker magazine once wrote, "exactly like money poured down the drain."  It was Governor Hugh Carey who formed a NYS agency to oversee City expenditures, tax collections and the like (Municipal Assistance Corporation--nicknamed Big Mac).  This is what saved NYC from total bankruptcy.

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It would have.  However, while all of the NYC parks took a hit in the 1970s, I suspect Flushing Meadow was hit the hardest.  The Fair's financial losses resulted in an unfinished park with two gigantic legacies nobody knew what to do with (NYS and the Federal pavilion) and there was no desire to do much of anything more to the place.  The tens of millions the State and City had spent on two Fairs, however, became something of a symbol of how freely career politicians had tossed taxpayer monies at projects that were not only supposed to bring financial gain to the region (NYC in particular) but to private investors as well.  That second part did not sit well with many New Yorkers as the City's financial problems became evident by 1970.  When the second Fair closed, there was good riddance attitude by many who only saw the financial losses as proof of poor leadership and nothing more.

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I'm not a local so don't have firsthand knowledge.  At what point post-'65 was FMCP at its lowest-- about 1977?

So the question is, was FMCP in 1977 in worse condition than in about 1959?

What condition would a 1977 FMCP have found itself had a 1960s World's Fair never occurred and the park continued to drift after the United Nations pulled out in 1952?

I look at pictures of the park on Reopening Day 1967 and it seems to look a LOT better than 1959 pictures I've seen.

Corollary questions:

Would the expressway improvements (Van Wyck/LIE/GCP) have happened by 1977 without a World'S Fair to stimulate it?  If not, what would 1970s traffic had been like for Long Island residents?

Would the Mets have chosen Willets Point for their new stadium had they not been able to piggyback on a World's Fair bringing the transportation infrastructure that was sorely lacking at Ebetts Field and the Polo Grounds?

 

I've heard some who blame the 1970s financial debacle largely on the nose of post-Fair mayor John Lindsay, who seemed to think he was 1920s mayor Jimmy Walker reincarnated.

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Good questions, Randy, I look forward to hearing local takes on your thoughts.

What if?  Would Long Island and even Queens have grown as quickly?  From the photos we've seen here, Queens was a lot less densely built up before the Fair. Dare I say there was open space in other areas than the great ash dump?  "If you build it they will come" seems to be particularly pertinent to Long Island.  Without Moses' L.I.E., would the LI urban sprawl rate be anything like it happened once the highway was built?  Probably not nearly that quickly.  The question about the stadium is interesting. It wiped out an unsavory area (also screwed a lot of people as did urban renewal everywhere) and brought new life and infrastructure to an antiquated section of town. The Bronx-Whitestone (1939) and Verrazano Narrows (1964) bridges would probably have eventually been built whether the Fairs happened or not, but both were built under the umbrella of "necessary" infrastructure for the two Worlds Fairs.  Just imagine how those two bridges have changed the complexion of NYC traffic.

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John Lindsay did so much damage to the city in so many ways. He had big hopes for a higher office but there was no chance of that after the mess he made in NYC.

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If memory serves me what ultimately doomed Lindsay was his poor response to the 1969 snowstorm .I don't think the voters ever forgave him for that faux pas.

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It's probably safe to say the Park was much worse off in the late 1970s than in the 1950s.  This may have to do with the fact that in 1959 there were few relics of the 1939 Fair and only one major structure in the main part of the Park (the NYC Building).  The Park may have looked fine in 1967 when Moses turned it over to the City but within just a few years it was a mess. He left huge relics from the second Fair all serving as sitting ducks for vandals, vagrants and anyone who just wanted to break something.  The Park was trashed.  And there was virtually no money to provide adequate protection for the place and no police or security to do it.  A good image might be the original clean Westinghouse Time Capsule monument in 1963 and the newer one, covered with paint, just a few years after the Fair ended.  Another image would be the vast, empty, vandalized Federal Building and graffiti on the Unisphere itself.  Then consider the NYS Pavilion still rotting and lacking function or purpose over fifty years after the Fair ended.

I don't know if those major highways would have been built without a Fair as impetus.  However, the original plan was for the new baseball team to play in Brooklyn to replace the lost Dodgers.  It was Moses who wanted the Mets in Queens and, over loud protests, he got his way and a stadium.  It was Moses who pushed for the LIE, an expressway that absolutely cut Long Island in half and allowed for more urban sprawl through Nassau County.  Most residents detest the LIE.  Moses also wanted a bridge from Rye to Oyster Bay but public outcry fortunately killed it.  Moses wanted expressways everywhere there was an open space with no regard for neighborhoods, history or quality of life.  The Cross Bronx Expressway, considered the most congested highway in the nation, is a perfect example of his attitude.  He wanted to do the same thing with the infamous Lower Manhattan Expressway which would have wiped out SoHo and Little Italy but was halted by public protests.  The guy never drove a car but he made sure there were plenty of highways for those who did.  We now know, sixty years later, that this was not the best policy nor the solution for every urban issue.

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People may hate the LIE but I'm sure Long Island would be filled up just as much today, and without that and the other highways it would be perpetual gridlock.

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Exactly.  They say they hate it, but declare you're going to rip it out and replace it with a simple street with a traffic signal every block, and they'd go into full blown panic mode and threaten to impeach any politician who would propose such a thing.

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I don't believe anyone is proposing the LIE be removed or replaced with street level  intersections.  I didn't.

My point was that when it was built, it bulldozed its way right through Nassau County with little regard to its impact on communities and neighborhoods within those communities.  That method of expressway construction would have a much more difficult time today.  Although the entire length of the LIE is not an interstate highway, it is nearing the end of its useful life as are thousand of miles of interstate highways across the nation.  Many are now over fifty years old.  As plans are formulated for how to repair, restore, renovate or whatever they plan to do with the LIE which is often called the "world's longest parking lot,"  there will be far more taxpayer input than there was fifty or sixty years ago.  

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