JAMAICA, QUEENS, N.Y. – The historic Pan American WorldPort is not down yet, and the group fighting to save the iconic structure from Delta’s destruction has upped the ante in its come-from-behind campaign to save the building, the interior of which is pictured here (Photo from Josh Stoff, curator of the Cradle of Aviation Museum on Long Island, who shared it with the Facebook Pan Am site).
The group Save the WorldPort has undertaken a crowd-sourcing program to raise money to buy an ad in The New York Times. So far, it has $5,ooo and has been assisted by checks large and small. They have until July 15 to raise the funds.
The advocacy group has done a miraculous thing by raising this much attention. When the demolition was first announced, Delta and the Port Authority were ignoring the issue, but have now had to confront the possibility that they would be the ones responsible for tearing down what is arguably the only remaining building that President John F. Kennedy and his family actually used, most notably Jackie Kennedy’s trip on Pan Am with Caroline to Italy in 1962.
Two weeks ago, the structure had its biggest boost ever, when the National Trust for Historic Preservation announced that it would put the building on its 11 Most Endangered List. The cause, which was generating tons of publicity around the world, gained dozens of new stories and mentions. However, in a rush job, Delta and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey began to tear down the approach road to the building, as well as part of its iconic saucer roof. Sadly, a worker was injured and the work stopped temporarily, though asbestos abatement is now being done to the building, which was the home of the first commercial flight of the 747.
The case for the history of the building has been made in dozens of ways, from its engineering to artistry. It appeared as a star in James Bond films, and was an actual backdrop to many historic trips. It also is historic because of the ACTUAL history that happened there. It is well known for being the spot where the Beatles landed, but it was also the scene of dozens of historic flight arrivals and departures, from Jonestown, Guyana to the Shah of Iran. As Pan Am’s terminal to the world’s greatest city and the home of the United Nations, it became an icon.
Repeat: Most importantly, it is the JFK building that was used by the Kennedy family. Does that matter?
Since the Endangered List began, numerous proposals have been floated for the terminal. One of the most interesting ideas is to remove ALL of the back (added in 1970 for jumbo jets like the 747) and keep the smaller rotunda, which is the original part anyway. This is an interesting one from broker Mark Jerusalem:
I think Delta is incredibly well positioned to benefit from this landmark should your company agree to a refurbishment of the “saucer” section of the terminal.
One of my visions for JFK’s Terminal 3 is for Delta to repurpose the original structure that opened in 1960 as an stand-alone facility for your most prestigious long haul flights (LHR including VS code-shares, NRT, transcons including LAX and SFO). DL could provide exclusive lounges and duty free shopping in this terminal with seamless connections between Terminals 2 and 4. As there is limited space to park wide-body aircraft at the “saucer”, just having 5 – 8 gates to serve flights to your most lucrative destinations from Terminal 3 would provide Delta with the kind of competitive and distinctive edge you seek in the NYC market. I picture a terminal as sleek and unique as the refurbished St. Pancras train station in London blending a historically important gateway with contemporary functional design.
I hope that you will consider the numerous proposed concepts and suggestions you have received for this building at JFK. To tear down this historically significant landmark to make room for an aircraft parking lot seems to me to be such a lost opportunity. I would love to see Delta taking the best of its history and using it to the airline’s ultimate advantage well into the future!
Delta, which gained so much from its purchase of Pan Am, still has time to do the right thing by the building.
In a press release, the group’s Kal Savi said that the rotunda takes a small share of the acreage at JFK. “It only consumes four of the 48 acres on the Terminal 3 site, so land constraint should be a non-issue,” said Savi. “The former TWA terminal was saved, and we feel the rotunda is equally significant in terms of historic, architectural and cultural merit, and after renovations, can be put back into revenue-generating use.”
“Right now our best approach is to raise even more awareness,” said the group’s co-founder and organizer Anthony Stramaglia, also in the release. “The ad will argue that Delta and the Port Authority can find a workable solution to save the building, which will not only benefit historic preservation, but will create even more jobs.” Stramaglia says the ad will run whether the building stands or falls because the group feels an injustice is being done.
And in spite of the fact that the Port Authority and Delta want it down now, its not down until its down. That’s the oldest rule in historic preservation.
Plus, in a recovering economy and booming stock market, Delta’s share price is stuck about where it was in 2008. It needs a little oomph.
Find out more: