COMMUNITY SERVICE: Mitch Silverstein is co-founder of the New York State Pavilion Paint Project, a volunteer group dedicated to maintaining the 1964-65 World’s Fair figure in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park through painting and other upkeep projects.
BACKGROUND: Born in Brooklyn, Silverstein, 55, moved to Long Island in 1963. He has fond memories of visiting the World’s Fair as a child. In addition to his Pavilion work, the event also inspired him to study science and become a biologist. Today, Silverstein lives in Rockland County, N.Y., but “gladly commutes” to Queens for his Paint Project work.
GOALS AND ACCOMPLISHMENTS: The New York State Pavilion Paint Project started in 2009, when co-founder John Piro wanted to repaint its stripes after the structure had been neglected. At first it was just the two of them, but there is now a core group of five to eight, with as many as 10 volunteers at a time.
“We figured that the paint would not only improve the park and the Pavilion, but it was also a form of advocacy. It was a hope for the future,” Silverstein said.
The group also does cleanup and minor repairs. It recently helped open up the Pavilion to the public for the first time in decades, after Piro approached the Parks Department with the idea. On April 22, on the fair’s 50th anniversary, around 2,000 came to the event, according to Silverstein.
He said the group hopes to continue helping the Pavilion “look nice” and “keep its dignity.” Silverstein, along with Piro and another group member, is part of a task force put together by Borough President Melinda Katz to create a plan for the Pavilion’s future.
INSPIRATION: Silverstein is inspired by his desire to see the Pavilion preserved and other groups that are advocating for the structure and are supportive of his own group’s work.
BIGGEST CHALLENGE: One step forward was when Borough President Melinda Katz declared she was dedicated to preserving the Pavilion, Silverstein said, but support and funding from multiple sources will likely be needed to stabilize and ultimately save it.