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Tuesday, September 4, 2012
Flushing Meadows more than just the Open

By Adena Andrews

While the U.S. Open is a pretty big event in Flushing Meadows, it doesn’t hold a candle to the history of events once held on these grounds. The 1,255-acre Flushing Meadows Corona Park, once a dumping ground for coal ash, played host to the 1939 and 1965 World’s Fair.

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Flushing Meadows Park's signature monument, the Unisphere, was erected for the 1965 World's Fair.

The World’s Fair, an exposition at which corporations amazed onlookers with technology, featured futuristic apparatuses like mainframe computers, modems and computer terminals displayed in awe-inspiring demonstrations. Machinery that people could only dream of were brought to the masses through the World’s Fair. More than 95 million people attended both fairs, each of which lasted a year.

There still are remnants of the fairs at Flushing Meadows Park. The park's signature monument, the Unisphere, a 140-foot tall stainless steel model of Earth erected for the 1965 World’s Fair, still sits at the center of the park. The sphere symbolizes the fair’s theme of “Peace Through Understanding” and is a celebration of the dawn of the space age. The three rings surrounding the globe represent the first three manmade satellites, launched in the late 1950s. It has become one of the most iconic and recognizable structures in Queens.

Other familiar structures in the park include the three observation towers, 90, 185 and 250 feet tall. They are also referred to as the spaceships or flying saucers after being depicted as alien aircrafts in the 1997 movie “Men In Black.” Upon closer inspection, the rusted towers and adjacent New York State Pavilion have an eerie, ghostly feel and are supposedly haunted by spirits from the World’s Fair.

“Lots of times spirits return to the last place they had fun,” said Stewart Kandel of the Ghost Doctors. “For many people, this was a memorable time in their life. In 1939, it might have been the last time they had fun before World War II began.”

Other eerie milestones at Flushing Meadows include a plaque outside the South Gate commemorating the death of two New York Bomb and Forgery Squad members, Joe Lynch and Freddy Socha, at the 1939 World’s Fair. An electrician alerted Lynch and Socha of a suspicious ticking package discovered in the British Pavilion, according to Bloomberg News. Lynch and Socha cut open the bag and were killed instantly by the explosion. The mystery bomber was never found and a $26,000 reward for information about the bombing still exists. The Ghost Doctors say spirits of the bomb squad members occupy the park.

If tales of the supernatural don’t move you, you can also visit Citi Field, home of the New York Mets, the Queens Museum of Art, Queens Wildlife Center, Meadow Lake and the New York Hall of Science, all of which call Flushing Meadows home. Or just grab a blanket and enjoy a sanctuary in the concrete jungle of New York City.

Like the rest of New York, the park is bustling with other activities that can satisfy almost anyone’s taste.