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Flushing Meadows Corona Park

New York City Building

This text is part of Parks’ Historical Signs Project and can be found posted within the park.

The New York City Building was constructed for the 1939-40 World’s Fair in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park. Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia (1882-1947), Parks Commissioner Robert Moses (1888-1981), World’s Fair President Grover Whalen (1886-1962), and architect Aymar Embury II (1880-1966) laid the cornerstone of the New York City Building on January 19, 1938. Following the fair, the NYC building was converted into an ice and roller skating rink, which operated from 1941 to 1946.

In 1946 Mayor William O’Dwyer (1890-1964) formed a committee to bid for the headquarters of the United Nations. The committee included Nelson A. Rockefeller (1908-1979), former Fair President Whalen, New York Times publisher Arthur Hays Sulzberger (1889-1968), and was chaired by Parks Commissioner Moses. After a $2,200,000 renovation, United Nations Secretary-General Trygve Lie convened the first session of the United Nations General Assembly in the New York City Building on October 23, 1946.

One of the first acts of the Assembly was to pass a resolution creating the state of Israel on November 29, 1947, with delegates Adlai Stevenson (1900-1965), Eleanor Roosevelt (1884-1962), and Golda Meir (1899-1978) present. Soon after the vote President Harry Truman (1884-1972) formally recognized the new nation. The General Assembly remained in the New York City Building until it moved to its permanent home along the East River in Manhattan in 1950. The General Assembly raised the flag of Israel among the other member nations as its last official act in the New York City Building.

In 1952 the building once again became an ice and roller skating rink. Ten years later, and 25 years after the first fair, the property underwent another renovation for the 1964-65 World’s Fair. When it reopened for the fair on April 25, 1964, its most popular feature was a detailed 9,335 square foot “Panorama” of New York City’s five boroughs. The exhibit featured scale models of 850,000 buildings and structures throughout New York City and is now on display inside the New York City Building, in the Queens Museum of Art.

The Queens Museum of Art opened in November of 1972 with artwork from the Metropolitan Museum of Art in Manhattan. In addition to the Panorama, the Museum features art-glass from the world-famous Tiffany Studios of Corona, Queens and selections of twentieth-century art. Architect Rafael Viñoly designed the $15 million gallery space expansion in 1994.

The New York City Building still houses the World’s Fair Ice Rink, which operates from mid-October to April. It also features the adjacent America-Israel Friendship Grove, which was completed in 1995 with $46,855 from Queens Borough President Chaire Shulman. The grove also includes a walk dedicated to Yitzhak Rabin (1922-1995), dedicated on December 4, 1995. The grove features native trees from both countries, including a cedar from Lebanon, to celebrate the lasting friendship chartered in the New York City Building.

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