View Full Version : The Panorama of the City of New York at the Queens Museum of Art

June 23rd, 2003, 07:21 PM
The Panorama of the City of New York

The Panorama of the City of New York, a permanent attraction of the Queens Museum of Art, Flushing Meadows Corona Park, Queens, reopened to the public in November 1994. The Panorama reopened after two years of reconstruction and updating undertaken by its original builders, Raymond Lester & Associates of West Nyack, New York.

The Panorama was one of the most popular exhibits of the 1964 World's Fair, attracting an average of 1400 visitors a day, and featured tracked-cars simulating helicopter flight over this 9335 sq. ft. 800,000 building model of the 320 square miles of New York City.

Lester & Associates have rebuilt, cleaned, and refurbished the Panorama. The 275 4 x 10' sections of the Panorama were removed, and urban changes since 1970 were researched using 5000 maps, 109 aerial photographs, and field trips to sites to determine current conditions. A team of technicians created new models of buildings and made the resulting changes to each panel--one panel at a time.

In addition to physical changes to the cityscape of the vast model, the lighting scheme of the Panorama has been altered. 2500 lights, initially mounted under the Panorama and flashing on and off to highlight program segments in a narration concerning municipal services, have been unified in a single circuit in order to enhance the night scene feature of the Panorama.

The ultraviolet and phosphorescent paints once dabbed on all building windows oxydized and faded over time and have been repainted in order to restore the Night Scene sequence to its original lustre.

Though the tracked-carssimulating helicopter flight over the city have been removed as part of the architectural reconstruction of the Museum, one popular animated sequence has been fully restored: a plane will regularly take off over the Panorama from LaGuardia airport.

The updating of the Panorama recovers the original mission of the Panorama as a living model that reflects growth and change in New York City.

Originally conceived by Robert Moses, President of the World's Fair Corporation, as a model to aid in urban planning and departmental oversight, the first contract with Lester called for less than one per cent margin of error between model and reality. Comparisons between aerial views of the real New York City and the related section of the Panorama were commonplace tests of its accuracy in the 1960s.

Lester Associates continued to update the Panorama until the early 1970s. Since then only 175 structures have been added. In 1990 147 models of major elements of the 1980s midtown Manhattan building boom were donated to the Panorama by their respective architects.

More prosaic but sweeping changes to the city had not been recorded. These anachronisms have now been redressed. Thus for the first time in a quarter century the Panorama is a living model of New York City as it really is.

Though many of the recorded changes will not alter one's view of New York City, the primary and most noticeable change in the Five Boroughs may come as a surprise: Staten Island, which has quite conspicuously developed from a semi-rural community into a highly complex urban spread.

For information, contact: Carolyn Bane, Public Information Officer, 718-592-9700, ext. 147


June 23rd, 2003, 07:41 PM
What is the scale? *

I think 1"=100'...no?

TLOZ Link5
June 23rd, 2003, 10:03 PM
It's more realistic than I remember, that's for sure.

June 23rd, 2003, 10:20 PM
Hey there really is a gap in the skyline. Right in between midtown and downtown.

June 24th, 2003, 12:16 AM
Greenwich Village.

TLOZ Link5
June 25th, 2003, 12:30 PM
If you want my opinion, there should always be a gap between Midtown and Downtown.

June 27th, 2003, 01:51 PM
Quote: from Jasonik on 7:41 pm on June 23, 2003
What is the scale? *

I think 1"=100'...no?

That would make ESB over a foot tall, and it doesn't seem that way in the photo.

TLOZ Link5
June 27th, 2003, 03:36 PM
Did they keep the WTC on the Panorama?

Freedom Tower
July 29th, 2003, 10:15 PM
From those pictures I still see it. Do you mean to ask if they removed it since those pictures were taken? I sure hope not.

July 30th, 2003, 11:54 AM
Last time I went there there was a Red, White, and Blue Rbbon on the Twin Towers. I have pictures on file, and maybe later I'll show it to you.

November 10th, 2003, 05:56 PM

Tribute in Light To Return -- In Miniature

By Shaya Mahajer
November 10, 2003

Twin pale-blue laser beams will replace the miniature replica World Trade Center towers that still stand in the Panorama of the City of New York at the Queens Museum of Art.

The Tribute in Light, named in honor of the WTC victims of the terrorist acts of Sept. 11, is scheduled to be complete within the next three months. The Panorama, a scale-model of the entire city, is a permanent exhibit at the museum, where currently a red, white and blue ribbon is intertwined around the model towers.

"The Panorama itself has got a big following and after Sept. 11 we received many calls asking what would happen to it," said Tom Finkelpearl, executive director of the museum.

The 9,355-square-foot display was originally built for the 1964 World's Fair and has more than 900,000 building models.

Over the years the model has been updated with new buildings, including the trade center after the second tower was completed in 1973.

Every nine minutes the lights are dimmed to simulate nighttime; tiny bulbs in buildings and two laser beams in place of the towers will illuminate the mini-cityscape.

"The Panorama is a living model so it needs constant modernization," said Julian LaVerdiere, who along with Paul Myoda will direct the creation of the Tribute in Light display.

Both are part of the team of artists who created the memorial lighting display that is illuminated every year from the footprints of the towers.

"Maps get changed and corrected as appropriate and this seemed a fitting alteration to make," LaVerdiere said. "It was a privilege to work on it because ever since I was a kid I marvelled at it."


January 31st, 2004, 09:31 PM
February 1, 2004


A Miniature Ground Zero Runs Into Its Own Problems


A floodlit, two-story chamber in the Queens Museum of Art, large enough to fit a couple of small aircraft, houses the institution's pride and joy: the Panorama of the City of New York, a justly famous three-dimensional model of the city.

The Panorama, commissioned by Robert Moses for the 1964 World's Fair in Flushing Meadows, comprises 800,000 buildings; it is at once so detailed that you can make out individual office lights, and so large that downtown Manhattan is a few minutes' leisurely walk from Far Rockaway.

But some headaches come with custody of the largest metaphor in New York. There is, for example, the matter of what do with the miniature twin towers, a couple of 13-inch gray blocks topped by two three-quarter-inch antennas, at the bottom of the Panorama's Manhattan Island.

"We got a lot of calls" after Sept. 11, 2001, said Tom Finkelpearl, the museum's director. "Everyone who had written a story about the Panorama in years called up. There were Japanese film crews."

A year after the attacks, Mr. Finkelpearl decided to install, on the spot where the tiny towers stood, a miniature version of "Tribute in Light," the haunting pair of bluish shafts that first shot up next to the Trade Center site in the spring of 2002.

Now, in miniature as in life, there is the problem of money. In the fall of 2002, five Assembly members pledged $10,000 each for an overhaul of the Panorama's lighting. But the money is taking its time in arriving, and meanwhile Mr. Finkelpearl has already been forced to revise his predictions about when the miniature "Tribute in Light" will be installed. The Dormitory Authority, the state agency in charge of administering such grants, does not hold out much hope of the money's arriving soon. "We don't have any paperwork on these grants yet,'' said Claudia Hutton, an agency spokeswoman.

Nor is using cheaper technology an option. During a test run, Mr. Finkelpearl said wearily, "we found out that inexpensive laser beams are green."

Meanwhile, the 40-year-old computer that controls the Panorama's lighting - original to the World's Fair installation and in line for replacement with the promised money - has become wheezy. The lights are supposed to turn off every nine minutes, providing a full minute of "night," during which the installation glows luridly. During a recent visit, they did not turn off at all.

"The lights in here are museum pieces," said David Dean, the museum's director of planning. "The bits and bats that go into them are irreplaceable."

Mr. Dean displayed the large, whirring cabinet in a back room where the testy old computer is kept, but was afraid to open it for fear of disturbing the components. When the new system arrives, he said, "we joke that this should go in the World's Fair exhibition downstairs."

Until that day, there is not much more to do than wait for the promised money. At the moment, the only element in the Panorama marking the attack is a red-white-and-blue-striped ribbon forming a figure eight between the two towers.

Mr. Finkelpearl says he has learned from the trajectory of the real-life trade center memorial. "It seemed like it was a mess," he said, with hope in his voice, "and then it all came together."

Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

January 31st, 2004, 09:53 PM


February 18th, 2004, 09:30 AM
This is one of NYC's treasures. Maybe the City should kick in some money for it...

February 2nd, 2007, 05:02 AM
February 2, 2007
On the Town, Sized Down, Jazzed Up

East River views: David Strauss of the Queens Museum of Art on the New York City Panorama.

A small world after all? At the Queens Museum of Art, a panorama built for the 1964 New York World’s Fair has been revitalized.

There is a spot in New York City where you can watch the dawn blush over Jamaica Bay in Queens and slip swiftly down the shore to Coney Island in Brooklyn, then hop across New York Harbor to suburban stretches of Staten Island.

As the Bronx begins to bustle and Manhattan jolts to life, the chirping of birds gives way to the snort of street sounds and taxi horns. And then a smooth voice-over reminds you that the city is “the center of civilization.”

This virtual New York City sunrise comes courtesy of the Queens Museum of Art, in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, and can be experienced once an hour from any vantage point on the balcony walkways around the perimeter of its New York City Panorama, which has been closed since October for renovation and reopens Sunday with a newly installed audiovisual accompaniment presentation.

The panorama reopens with the museum’s new exhibition on Robert Moses, who had the panorama built for the 1964 World’s Fair. It became a permanent exhibit in the Queens Museum when the museum opened in 1972 in the fair’s old New York Pavilion building.

The panorama, the museum’s centerpiece, is widely known as the world’s largest architectural model of a city, and yet remains relatively obscure. Yes, there have been live tour guides and headphone tours, but for decades the extent of its presentation apparatus has been the aging dimmable house lights.

Museum officials have long wrestled with ways to revitalize the model and expand its possibilities. They even mused about asking New York developers and building owners to sponsor a model in the panorama in return for a little sign on it plugging the real building. (Are you listening, Mr. Trump?) They finally became sold on the benefits of adding a multimedia accompaniment, after seeing a temporary presentation created for the International Olympic Committee in 2005 to show how the city could be converted to an Olympic village.

“The panorama is by far our biggest attraction, and we really wanted to bring it to life and attract more viewers,” said the museum’s director, Tom Finkelpearl, who explained that the new equipment — with its ability to spotlight different parts of the city with audiovisual sideshows, could be adapted to give various types of New York theme presentations.

The model was built with incredible topological and architectural accuracy. Its roughly 895,000 tiny buildings, streets, parks and bridges are made mostly of wood and plastic and all built to scale, from bridge length to park acreage to skyscraper height.

The 321 square miles of the city’s five boroughs are sprawled over the model’s 9,335 square feet. An inch equals 100 feet, Far Rockaway is a jump shot from Central Park, and the 1,500-foot-tall Empire State Building is 15 inches. The beach at Coney Island is just over 13 feet long, the Staten Island ferry would travel 22 feet, and the Bronx Zoo covers 1,500 square inches.

The panorama, which lacks people, traffic, trash and other real-life elements, was originally built for $672,000. Other than a 1992 overhaul that modernized many of the low-rise buildings and added newer structures, this upgrade is its most significant. It cost $750,000, part of which was originally earmarked for a “Tribute in Light” to replace the 13-inch gray blocks that represent the twin towers. But tests indicated that the light would be seen only if there was dust in the air, so for now the blocks remain in place.

The new presentation equipment, a stack of computerized audio and sound equipment, sits high on a balcony. It is connected to video projectors, speakers, automatically controlled spotlights and a network of colored lights around the perimeter, near the ramp that affords viewers a bird’s-eye view of the metropolis.

Mr. Finkelpearl said the presentation recalled some of the original bells and whistles that accompanied the panorama when it opened at the World’s Fair and is meant to give viewers the feel of a helicopter ride over the city. Viewers rode in fake helicopter cars on tracks around the periphery of the model. Narration was provided by the newscaster Lowell Thomas (who uttered the “center of civilization” line). One recent weekday Mr. Finkelpearl stood on the walkway for a demonstration of the 12-minute presentation about New York and Robert Moses and how the model was built partly to emphasize his accomplishments in consolidating the city with bridges and highways connecting the boroughs.

Each borough is spotlighted, as are the Hudson, Harlem and East Rivers. Ellis Island is lighted, and you can hear the sound of voices of the huddled masses. A strobe light depicts the chaos of Midtown Manhattan.

This is, after all, the Queens Museum, and the most fuss is made over Queens. The presentation includes audio and video clips recorded recently in specific ethnic neighborhoods like Jackson Heights’s Indian immigrant community and the Greeks and Arabs of Astoria.

Also on hand was Blagovesta Momchedjikova, a tour guide for the model whose enthusiasm for it has earned her the nickname “Queen of the Panorama.”

Ms. Momchedjikova, who helped develop the script, now teaches a writing class at New York University, using the model as an inspiration and subject matter for memories of New York. She wrote a 250-page doctoral dissertation on the model.

The embodiment of the ethnic mix of Queens, Ms. Momchedjikova is a Bulgarian immigrant who married a Senegalese immigrant, Mady Cisse, and they have a baby boy named Moussa, the Senegalese version of the name Moses.

She said she was excited about the presentation but emphasized that viewing the model also is a personal, meditative experience, a communion with your own personal New York, the cognitive model you have in your memory where all your memories — where you lived, worked, fell in love — play out.

“Most people want personal time with the model because it’s a big repository of all we’ve experienced in New York,” she said. “It gives us a tactile experience of where we’ve been and where we want to go.”

Copyright 2007 The New York Times Company

February 2nd, 2007, 07:38 AM
On the Town, Sized Down, Jazzed Up

"Sized down"? Can't find anything in the article on this. Has it really been sized down?

February 2nd, 2007, 08:15 AM
I remember going on a field trip in elementary school to the Queens Museum of Art. I remember seeing the sunup and sundown cast on the model. Absolutely beautiful.

February 2nd, 2007, 10:00 AM
"Sized down"? Can't find anything in the article on this. Has it really been sized down?

No, its the same size as it was before. They are referring to it being a miniaturization of the city.

I just went last weekend for the first time. It is really an interesting experience and I would recommend it to anyone who visits WNY. Its like the view you get from a plane, except you stay and look around as long as you want.

I was not familiar with City Island. Nor was I familiar with just how many public housing projects are here (all these buildings are red in color).

February 2nd, 2007, 11:42 AM
No, its the same size as it was before. They are referring to it being a miniaturization of the city.
Oh, OK. My bad.

March 16th, 2009, 05:15 PM
March 16, 2009, 3:45 pm

You, Too, Can Own a Piece of the (Mini) City

By Anne Barnard (http://cityroom.blogs.nytimes.com/author/anne-barnard/)

When even the Metropolitan Museum of Art is laying off staff, what do you do if your financial base is less Fifth Avenue than Queens Boulevard? The Queens Museum of Art has come up with a creative way of weathering the downturn and its attendant drop in donations to cultural institutions: Capitalizing on a unique piece of New York real estate.

The museum’s most famous asset is its 9,335-square-foot scale model (http://www.queensmuseum.org/panorama/about.htm) of New York City, originally built for the 1964 World’s Fair. The Panorama of the City of New York has 895,000 structures, replicating every street, bridge and skyscraper in the five boroughs.

It is the physical and sentimental centerpiece of the museum (http://www.nytimes.com/2008/10/31/nyregion/31panorama.html), located on the old fairgrounds in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park (http://nycgovparks.org/parks/fmcp), next to the Unisphere (http://nycgovparks.org/sub_your_park/vt_flushing_meadows/vt_flushing_08.html), the enormous stainless-steel globe that was also built for the fair and has become an unofficial symbol of Queens.

Now, the museum is beginning an “Adopt-a-Building” program.

Starting Monday, you can “own” an apartment in the tiny world of the model for $50. A single-family house will cost $250.

And for $10,000, developers can have their brand-new glass-tower condo buildings added to the panorama — no matter how many units are languishing on the market. “Buyers” will even be awarded their own personal deeds.

Up to now, the panorama has represented a snapshot of New York, frozen in time. In 1992, workers updated 60,000 structures to reflect the city’s constant churn of construction and demolition, but it has been untouched since then.

In the miniature world, the Trade Center still stands, for instance, and the luxury towers now lining the Long Island City and Williamsburg waterfronts are nowhere to be seen.

Now, the panorama will evolve gradually along with the city — at least, for those who pay.

The first taker was the New York Mets. In a ceremony Monday morning, Claudia Ma, a City College architecture student, walked onto the panorama and, like a giant monster in a Japanese disaster film — but with more finesse — pulled off the model of Shea Stadium from its foundations. She fastened the new Citi Field into place, mirroring the real-life replacement under way not far from the museum. (Those nostalgic for the old Shea can now visit the model in the museum’s World’s Fair exhibit.)

In the audience was Queens Borough President Helen Marshall, who donated $250 to adopt her house in East Elmhurst.

The “Adopt-a-Building” will raise funds dedicated to maintaining the panorama and the educational programs built around it, including popular tours for schoolchildren. The models are to be built by City College architecture students.

City Room was intrigued by the possibilities, which immediately raised a number of questions both selfish and civic-minded.

First of all, what if you, like City Room, have the disappointing experience of locating your own corner but finding that your building — a 12-story prewar apartment house with distinctive yellow brick and lion’s-head cornices — is represented by a generic five-story tenement? (While viewers can delight in spotting exact details from the green roof of the Carlyle Hotel to the steel-ribbed Unisphere, not every structure merits an exact replica.)

“We’d be happy to update it if your co-op board would like to get together and pool your money,” offered David Strauss, the museum’s director for external relations.

But what if we’re a rent-stabilized building?

“I’d have to boil down the price,” Mr. Strauss said. But he warned jocularly that like stabilized rents, the price might rise by a fixed percentage each year.

Seriously, though, “There is always room for negotiation when working with the general public,” he said. “Like in the real estate market.”

O.K., now a question of more general importance for the urban psyche: If the museum starts updating post-2001 commercial projects like “The Edge” in Williamsburg, won’t it be anachronistic to leave the Twin Towers standing?

The museum won’t put a hole at ground zero, Mr. Strauss said. Instead, once the new skyscrapers planned for the site are in place, a model of them will replace the model of the towers.

“That’s something that obviously we’d like the developer to take care of,” Mr. Strauss added, hinting at the $10,000 donation. “But we’d probably do it anyway, since it’s such an important structure to the city.”

Unless a tribe of enormous aliens comes up with an Adopt-a-Building program for the real city to fund the completion of cash-challenged projects, that update may have to wait awhile.


Copyright 2009 The New York Times Company (http://www.nytco.com/)

March 16th, 2009, 10:47 PM
^ Reminds me of the model of ancient Rome at EUR, that city's Queens.

March 17th, 2009, 05:04 AM
^ An opportunity for you to acquire that West End Avenue address ablarc?

March 17th, 2009, 01:54 PM
Thanks very very much for all of the posts about The Panorama of the City of New York.

April 19th, 2009, 08:21 PM
i did a photo thread on the panorama last year w/ lots of pics:


April 19th, 2009, 11:16 PM
Thanks very very much for that website of New York City.

April 20th, 2009, 08:50 PM
Yes, I enjoyed it as well.

July 22nd, 2010, 02:23 AM
As an artist I would like to do a photo shoot of the panaorama. What are the costs and conditions involved, who would I contact for permission to use the model.

July 22nd, 2010, 03:21 AM
You would have to do it on site.

July 22nd, 2010, 01:57 PM
Of course it would be done on site. Many years ago, as a high school student (Bayside) I visited the behind the scenes working of the panorama, I interviewed for my school paper, the attendant. My project is to do photographs depicting the contrasts of proportions, that the Panorama affords. I know that there are those with access to the models floor. that is what I am interested in.

July 22nd, 2010, 02:32 PM
Your best bet is to call.

mr messer
July 22nd, 2010, 02:35 PM
The scale model of NYC is awesome. Have you seen it?

Check it out. (http://tinyurl.com/2w8lgkf)

July 22nd, 2010, 03:21 PM
^That's what this thread is about.

mr messer
July 22nd, 2010, 03:28 PM
Oh sorry. I misread the title, thinking it was about a panorama, not the scale model.

July 22nd, 2010, 07:14 PM
Whom shall I call, or contact. Is there a specific person director or administrator I should contact? And of course, have you a number or email address I might reach them at.
Many thanks,

July 22nd, 2010, 07:20 PM
Why do you expect us to know this?

July 22nd, 2010, 08:51 PM
I thought this group was affiliated with the Museum or the office associated with the Panorama.

July 22nd, 2010, 09:38 PM
No, this is just a thread on a board. We discuss lots of different stuff here.

July 23rd, 2010, 06:31 PM
I see, well, thank you very much, if you have any input on whom I should contact, that would be appreciated. again, thanks for you time

July 23rd, 2010, 07:05 PM
Good luck with this.

July 26th, 2010, 10:39 AM
Have you tried going to their website and clicking on... contact us? They have direct email addys for officials such as the "art access coordinator"


September 19th, 2010, 05:18 PM
Thank you dtolman,
(A tip of my hat to you) This is precisely the information I was seeking. Will give it a try.