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New York RecenteredBuilding the Metropolis from the Shore$
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Kara Murphy Schlichting

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9780226613024

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: September 2019

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226613161.001.0001

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“From Dumps to Glory”

“From Dumps to Glory”

Flushing Meadows and the New York World’s Fair of 1939–1940

(p.188) 6 “From Dumps to Glory”
New York Recentered

Kara Murphy Schlichting

University of Chicago Press

This chapter examines the environmental reclamation of Flushing Meadows for the 1939-1940 Queens world’s fair. In the 1930s, the infamous ash dump at Flushing Meadows stood as stark proof of the consequences of an unplanned periphery. On this wasteland, planners merged urban environmental and technological infrastructure to build the fair, the “World of Tomorrow.” The 1939-1940 New York World’s Fair was at once an exercise in international fraternity, an amusement park, a utopian community, a trade show for American industry, and a celebration of consumer society. While the fair is most often remembered in terms of its futurist theme, the creation of the Flushing Meadows fairsite was grounded in the contemporary forces of city planning and federally-funded public works during the New Deal. Fair officials declared the filling of Flushing Meadows a triumph of engineering and environmental reclamation. But the removal of decades of ashes and garbage dumped into the marshes as well as the dredging and filling required to establish a foundation for the fair had environmental consequences. Viewed comparatively, fair construction and the World of Tomorrow’s most important exhibits on utopian cities emerge as complementary narratives of planning and environmental change to build the modern metropolis.

Keywords:   Queens, public works, New Deal, New York World's Fair 1939 1940, World of Tomorrow, Flushing Meadows, environmental reclamation, Robert Moses

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