Last Wednesday, Parks Department officials joined Councilman Peter Koo and Councilman Francisco Moya to cut the ribbon on the $6.8 million upgrade. Funded completely by the de Blasio administration, the project converted the Reflecting Pool into an interactive mist garden with specialized jets that create “a cooling cloud.”
“It’s available for families and kids to cool off in the summertime when it’s hot,” said Parks Commissioner Mitchell Silver. “When the mist is gone, it becomes a performance space.”
Designed for the 1964 World’s Fair, the Fountain of the Fairs is connected to the Unisphere and the Fountain of the Planets. It was last restored 20 years ago after decades of inactivity, but fell into disrepair again after flood damage from Superstorm Sandy.
The project retained the site’s original 1964 design and dimensions, while adding new seating, a drinking fountain, updated plumbing and infrastructure, and new pavement designed to reflect the Art Deco style of the 1930s.
“These iconic fountains are known throughout the world as a hallmark of the borough of Queens, and a wonderful attraction where residents can cool off and have fun in the summer,” Koo said. “Investing in our parks is intrinsically tied to the health and well-being of our communities, and I’m very happy to see this significant investment fulfilled right here in Flushing Meadows Corona Park.”
Park administrator Janice Melnick said children have been using the fountains of the Unisphere for water play, even though it’s only ornamental. When designing the project, parks officials hoped that adding the mist would attract people over to the Fountain of the Fairs for that purpose.
Melnick said the Parks Department hosted extensive visioning sessions with the community, more than just normal scoping meetings. Ultimately, they came up with a master plan for the entire area, with the upgrade of the Fountain of the Fairs as the first phase.
“We really think this is going to be a destination,” she said. “Maybe mom and dad can come and relax for a little bit while their kids are playing and keep a close eye on them.”
The project also removed the large shrubbery that blocked the view of the fountain. The idea was to open up the space and keep the plantings so that visitors can see it from anywhere in the park.
Phase II of the master plan includes renovating the site just south of the Rocket Thrower to create a multi-tiered space for entertainment or outdoor classroom usage. It would include an area for public art exhibits.
The third phase will feature play equipment and a more traditional spray shower area.
Melnick noted, however, that the Parks Department does not have enough funding for those projects yet.
“But we are hoping we will get the funding to do it,” she said.