John Pazmino
 NYSkies Astronomy Inc
 2011 December 21
    On 2011 December 10 I took a walking tour of a new exhibit at the 
Queens Museum of Art, in the World's Far campus, Flushing--Corona 
Park, Queens. The tour was run by NYC-H2O, a group promoting 
appreciation and interest for the water supply works of New York City. 
    The group assembled at the museum in two session, at noon and 1:00 
PM. The number of guests in each group was limited by the confined 
space in the exhibit hall. Altho the tour was specificly for the new 
exhibit, there is an other one at the museum that complements it. 
    The two exhibits are the Watershed Relief Map and the New York 
City Panorama Model. These may not be the official names, but they 
describe the exhibits and the museum knows what you mean when asking 
for them. 
Queens Museum of Art
    The building housing the Queens Museum of Art is the former New 
York City pavilion for the 1939-1940 World's Fair. It's a neoclassical 
structure facing, at the Fair, the centerpiece Trylon and Perisphere. 
The pavilion showcased municipal services and civic works. One was 
supposed to be the Watershed Relief Map, but this was not in fact 
shown during the Fair. 
    After the Fair the building was used for exhibits and shows. 
Unlike other Fair pavilions, it was built as a permanent edifice. 
Everything else from the 1939 Fair was demolished, including the 
Trylon and Perisphere. Today the New York City pavilion is the only 
remaining relic of that Fair. 
    From 1946 to 1950 the newly established United Nations set up its 
temporary headquarters in the building, while waiting completion of 
its Manhattan campus. The building was internally  restructured to 
suit the UN needs. In these four years, the New York City pavilion 
became one of the few buildings on Earth visited by just about every 
world leader of its time. 
    Among the enduring initial efforts of the UN in the New York City 
pavilion were the creation of UNICEF and Israel. This historical twist 
explains why Israel is sometimes mocked as being the 'step-child of 
    When the UN moved into its Manhattan campus, the building became a 
recreation facility for Flushing-Corona Park, such as a park it was. 
Never the less it attracted a substantial attendance and generally 
    Over the decades there were many renovations of the interior space 
of the building. There is probably little original artifacts left 
there. The exterior, while modified from time to time, retains pretty 
much the original appearance. 
    For the 1964-1965 World's Fair the City refurbished the building 
into the City's fair pavilion again. It again highlighted City 
services and facilities, specially the works of master builder Robert 
Moses. A new major attraction was the panorama model of the City, 
    Following the 1964 Fair the building reverted to recreation, 
shows, exhibits. Unlike after the 1939 Fair, the fairgrounds were 
improved into a general purpose park with ongoing sports and 
recreational activities. The building attracted visitors from the 
    In 1972 the north half of the building was given to the newly 
formed Queens Center for Arts and Culture, It later renamed to Queens 
Museum of Art. To suit the museum needs the interior was rebuilt while 
carefully protecting the Panorama. The model's simulated helicopter 
ride, discussed later, was removed. 
    in 2011 a massive renovation began to bring the rest of the 
building up to museum standard, about doubling the exhibit space. This 
new section opens in 2013-14. 
Getting to the museum
    The museum is reached from Manhattan easiest by the Flushing line 
to 111th St station in Corona. The Flushing line touches Grand 
Central, Bryant Park, and Times Square on Manhattan and gives a fast 
run to Corona. 111th St is a local stop that may require a change of 
train at Junction Bv station. 
    Exit to the south side of the el into 111th St. Walk south in 
111th St about 1/2 kilometer to one entrance to the park. 
    Along the way you pass the Hall of Science with a turnout into it. 
Stay on 111th St; do not loop into the Hall. You merely waste shoe 
leather and end up back on 111th St. 
    Turn east, left, at the park entrance, continue straight, around a 
circular flower bed, across the Grand Central Parkway overpass. 
    On the far landfall of the overpass turn right, south, into a 
footpath. Stay on this path to the front facade of the museum. By now 
you walked a full kilometer from the el station. 
    The museum entrance is on the northwest corner of the building. Do 
a short right jog to reach it. 
    The welcome desk in the lobby asks for a donation, suggested at $5 
per adult. This is so trivial that you may treat it as a regular 
admission charge. Ask for both the Watershed and Panorama models. They 
are on the ground floor behind the service desk.. 
Flushing Meadows-Corona Park 
    The 1939-1940 Fair was built out of the Corona Ash Dump on the 
north shore of Queens. It was a vast, several square kilometer field 
at the mouth of Flushing Creek receiving ash from coal burning thruout 
Queens. It was a filthy disgusting place, avoided by any one in proper 
mind and soul.
    Because Corona. an adjacent nabe of Queens, was so much part of 
the sordid image of the ash dump, the park after the 1939 Fair was 
named Flushing Meadows Park. 
    The dump was supposed to become a new permanent park for Queens 
after the Fair. Probably because World War II intervened and then 
other municipal priorities sidelined the project, the area fell into 
disuse. Altho generally cleaned up by the Fair,it was not in any sense 
a proper recreation site. 
    For he 1964-1965 World's Fair, the land was reworked, this time 
with a more positive vow to make it into a major park afterwards. 
    At the same time, it was recognized that the park was geographicly 
within the legacy town of Corona, not Flushing. It was renamed 
Flushing Meadows-Corona Park. This longish clumsy name is routinely 
shortened to 'Flushing Meadows Park', 'Flushing-Corona Park', or, for 
memory of the World's Fair, 'the Fairgrounds'. 
    Many readers fondly recall the 1964 Fair and still think of it as 
happening only a few years ago. It occurred during their youth and 
made profound and enduring impressions. Just for one point, many 
exhibitors were third world countries, not well known in the United 
States, and many US states. In fact, this World's Fair was the very 
first time ever that third-world nations could be major exhibitors in 
their own pavilions. 
    Their pavilions presented the culture and life of the host states 
and nations in a way probably never since repeated anywhere in the US. 
    After the Fair many buildings were preserved and are still 
standing today. Many, being temporary, were pulled down and the ground 
leveled and grassed over. Some are in routine use like those for the 
New York City and the Port of Authority. 
    The Unisphere is maintained in amazingly good condition but its 
lamps for national capitals burned out decades ago. This is still the 
largest globe of Earth ever made in all human history. 
     One exhibit is entombed at its site, the underground house of the 
future. It is, according to occasional inspections, virtually exacta 
mente as it was in the Fair, with all furniture and fixtures intact. 
    Other structures are horribly dilapidated such as New York State 
and a couple of the fountains. The United Stats building fell into 
such dilapidation that it was torn down long after the Fair. Hopes to 
renovate it never worked out. 
    Very few brand-new buildings,for park functions,were built, so the 
ground plan is substantially that of the Fair. History tours of the 
pavilion sites are staged from time to time. 
    The rest of the Flushing-Corona Park is much improved, yet it's so 
huge it does look empty. Sports, races, competitions are regularly 
held there and it enjoys a thriving attendance. 
Watershed Relief Map
    One of the displays planned for the 1939 Fair at the New York City 
pavilion was a scale model of the NYC watershed, where rain water is 
collected for the City. It was a project of the Depression-era WPA, 
started in 1937. 
    It was to highlight the water department's exhibit at the Fair. 
For one or more reasons bantered about in city history the model was 
not put on display at the Fair. It was completed and ready but it 
remained in storage. 
    One reason is that with World War II about to break out, Germany 
was a military threat to the US. The detailed and accurate model could 
encourage sabotage campaigns against the City. 
    An other is that the model was too big to fit in any available 
room in the pavilion or thru any access way into the building. Both 
reasons sound plausible but neither, nor any of the several others. 
was positively proved. 
    In any case the model was displayed during the City's jubilee 
celebration in 1948. The event marked the 50th year of the greater City 
of New York, consolidated from the five boros in 1898. The exhibition 
was in the Grand Central Palace, near Grand Central Terminal, along 
with other City exhibits, a parade, and air show. 
    The postWar years made aviation a dominant new feature in society, 
impelled by advances during the war. At the time the City's new 
airport, now JFK, was building as the largest airport in the world. 
    After the jubilee, the model went into storage at various 
facilities of the water department. Over time it got damaged and 
suffered missing parts. It was never marked for disposal or 
demolition, but decayed from handling and neglect. 
    In 2006 the Department of Environmental Protection, who now runs 
the water system, and the Queens Museum of Art teamed to restore the 
model and display it permanently in its intended first home, the New 
York City pavilion. By 2008,for the 70th anniversary of its showing at 
the jubilee, the model was finished and placed in its present exhibit 
hall. The space in the museum was severely modified previously, 
allowing the model to fit. 
Build and features 
    The map is made of wood and plaster with chaser lamps along its 
rivers and aqueducts to show how water flows from the many lakes and 
artificial ponds to the City. The topography is color-coded and sports 
hand-lettered caption signs. 
    The model is scaled 1:24,000. In the oldstyle units of the 20th 
century this means 1 'inch' equals 2,000 'foot'. We now treat this as 
1 meter equals 24 kilometers. The vertical scale is exaggerated to, if 
I recall correctly, 1:6,000. 
    Vertical expansion of scale is common for relief maps, else the 
terrain would look awfully flat. This is done today with relief maps 
of other planets, as example, 
    Altho thoroly restored, the model is that of 1939 and lacks some 
newer elements of the water works. Most obvious is the absence of 
Cannonsville Reservoir, built in the 1950s. This is off the northeast 
corner of the map and would extend the map to the wall of its hall.. 
    Water Tunnel #3 is also missing. This started building in the 
1970s as the third main aqueduct into the City. Parts are already in 
    A third example is the new ultraviolet germ zapper hut near the 
Kensico reservoir. It just completed building and may open in 2013. 
This construct is the very most powerful UV light source on Earth. It 
can process, uh, eight million cubic meters of water per day. 
    There is no idea to update the model to reflect these and other 
current and future facilities. It is a historical piece. 
    The model is about 6 meter wide and 9 meter long and sits on a 
knee-high bed enclosing wiring for the lamps. It fits snugly in its 
exhibit hall, limiting the number of people who can assemble as a 
group. The NYC-H2O tour was staged in two sessions to handle all of 
the guests 
    There is about 1-1/2 meter walk-space along the long sides and 2-
1/2 meter at the narrow ends. A couple benches occupy the wider areas. 
The map is protected, hardly, by a thin rope on short standoffs that 
were easily snagged when leaning in inspect the map. 
    The tour included a narration and slideshow about the water system 
and the model. I don't know if there is ongoing interpretation during 
regular museum hours. 
    There was no descriptive litterature about the model, only a brief 
mention of it as an exhibit. I brang for the tour takeaways of text 
and diagrams of the water works, which were welcomed by the group. 
    I noticed non-tour visitors stopping by to look at the model. They 
were oddly quiet, not really talking but standing in silence over it. 
It seemed they thought the model was supposed to be viewing in 
reverence and dignity. I don't think any one outside the tour really 
appreciated what it portrayed. Was this some horizontal art mural? 
    What about the strategic hazard? With satellite images and such 
the entire watershed is open to anyone to examine. Also, much of the 
actual watershed is open to the public for camping, night viewing, 
hiking sports, fishing, and so on. 
City water system
    I can not in this short article explain fully how New York secures 
its drinking water. The system is exquisitely detailed in other 
Internet resources. I here point out a few features. 
    When the system was built there was no large city on Earth with a 
reliable sanitary plentiful supply of drinking water. There were lots 
of small towns clustered around wells or springs but no large town 
enjoyed clean clear water. 
    New York planned its water system in the 1830s as the first modern 
sanitary, plentiful, reliable system in the world since the Roman 
days. It took some ten years to build and it opened in 1847. Since 
there was no other credible scheme to base our system on, we get our 
water thru a network of impondments and ductwork patterned after those 
built by the Romans. 
    There was the practical problem that pumping, as we do today for 
small water systems, was just not possible. Steam engines were too 
crude, too wasteful of fuel, too expensive to maintain. We in
the stead laid out lakes and basins in the hills and ducted the water 
to the City thru pipes. 
    The whole flow of water is entirely by gravity from mountains 
north and west of the City to the sea-level conurbation. There is 
minuscule pumping here and there, hardly enough to augment the flow. 
    There was one incredible natural 'pump' in the original system to 
get the water across Manhattan Valley at 125th St. In the stead of 
running the pipe horizontally over the valley, like the Upper Broadway 
el or Riverside Drive highway, it dips, like a sink trap, under the 
valley. Water flows down and up by means of the siphon effect. Later 
siphons were built to bring water under Hudson River from the western 
    As the water runs downhill its pressure weakens from friction in 
the ductwork. By the time it got to Manhattan, then the extent of New 
York City, the pressure raised the water only to the fifth or sixth 
story level. Since that was the tallest any one imagined would be 
built in the early 1800s, this was not considered to inhibit city 
    Thru much of the 19th century building in New York had no occupied 
floors above 5th or 6th. There are massive numbers of these structures 
all over Manhattan, mostly in the walkup apartment buildings. 
    The initial waterworks covered most of Westchester county using 
the Croton river as source. This is the Croton system, To maintain 
water gradient and get from the hilly part of the Bronx to hills on 
Manhattan the aqueduct crossed Harlem River on a tall arch bridge 
straight from Caesar's engineering manual. This is today's High 
Bridge, open for guided tours from time to time. 
    A fountain in City Hall Park, the Croton Fountain, marked the 
south end of the main aqueduct with sprays of crystal clear mountain 
rainwater. Smaller pipes continued the flow to Lower Manhattan. It was 
removed in the 1870s but a replica was placed in the park in the 
1990s. It still sprays crystal clear mountain rain water from the 
newer parts fo the water system. 
    In the 1870s another segment of the Westchester system was built 
as the New Croton system. This is now merged with the original works 
and is not in regular use today. It is in standby reserve. 
    The original Croton aqueduct and many of its way stations were 
abandoned over the years. They are landmarks for hiking or biking 
tours. Several are om Manhattan such as High Bridge tower and 
gatehouses near City College and Columbia University. 
    Over the decades into the mid 20th century the system expanded to 
reach about 150 kilometers from Manhattan, include 19 natural and 
human-made lakes and ponds, and hundreds of kilometers of aqueduct. 
Around the impondments are vast expanses of buffer land with enforced 
controlled development and activity to prevent contamination of the 
water. Water inflow is pure mountain rain water with no significant 
chemical treatment or filtration. 
    The flow to the City is today about 4 MILLION TONS of pristine 
water per day and the reservoirs hold enough water to survive a rain 
stoppage of one year. 
    The water of New York City is so pure it needs no extra treatment 
for use in batteries, hygienic cleansing, fish tanks, photographic 
processes, boiler steam, and -- I'M NOT MAKING THIS UP! -- tracing the 
paths of cosmic rain particles. 
    As the City built taller structures, the skyscrapers, in the 1880s 
water did not reach to the higher floors. The system of onsite pumping 
with local storage of water in rooftop tanks began. Today New York is 
famous for the thousands of rooftop tanks. They are still made in 
about the same way as in the late 19th century. 
Protecting the water
    In preparation to return the Croton section to operation the City 
is building two of the largest waterworks facilities on Earth. One is 
the mother of ultraviolet zappers in Hillview, Westchester county, to 
irradiate incoming water with germicidal UV rays. 
    The other is an underground filter in the Bronx. It will use as 
ionized osmosis barriers to trap vestigial bacteria. This machine is 
building some 200 meters under Mosholu Park. 
    To ensure the ultra pristine quality of the water source, New York 
City has a veritable imperial dominion over the watershed area. Altho 
towns in this region are not part of the City, they are under its 
supervision for matters possibly infringing on the City water supply.     
This rule is acceptable, even welcomed, by the towns because commonly 
they obtain their own water from the City system. 
    In the buffer zones people can temporarily visit but not stay 
there. They must also adhaere to strict waste disposal rules. Certain 
environmentally hazardous activities are banned. 
    In some cases New York City litteally run the sewer and storm 
system of the towns to prevent hazardous runoff into the reservoirs. 
The City makes the town install water-quality improvement in exchange 
for some civic work from the City. This may be a new fire house, 
library, school, park. 
Hydraulic Fracturing 
   Since 2009 there arose a new threat to the water supply. Gas 
utility companies are proposing to lift natural gas, methane, from the 
watershed by hydraulic fracturing. Water and trade-secret chemicals 
are pumped under hundreds of atmosphere pressure into gas-bearing 
rock. The pressure cracks the rock, releasing its gas. The gas, 
hopefully, migrates to the well pipes to be lifted to the ground for 
utility use. 
    Already in many parts of the United States massive problems came 
up from this practice, short-named 'fracking'. One obvious problem is 
the source of the pumping water. It comes from the same rivers that 
feed the watershed. Once pumped into the ground, hundred of meters 
deep. it is lost for any further use. Its wanderings under the earth 
are unknown. It is glatt diversion of water from the City's supply. 
    An other obvious problem is the industrial character of the wells. 
They produce waste fluids. The slush percolating up the well can run 
off into streams that feed the reservoirs. Water pumped into the 
rocks, dirty with chemicals and minerals, could seep into the 
reservoirs thru porous soils. 
    I skip here many other dangers, such as loosened gas that doesn't 
get to the wells. It leaks into low spots in buildings where it can 
detonate with the slightest provocation. This happened many times in 
areas of fracking activity. 
Panorama of New York City 
    For the 1964-1965 World's Fair the City built a scale model of all 
five boros, with every effing structure in it! It was partly to show 
off the new civil works of Robert Moses, who commissioned the project. 
He was also chair of the Fair and many municipal departments that 
built major civil works such as parks, highways, bridges, pools. 
    It was also meant to be used after the Fair to coordinate city 
planning. The thinking was that it would faithfully portray the City's 
structures in real time, having replacements as new buildings are put 
up and old one demolished. In this way developers could inspect the 
area od their projects and see how they interact with the surrounds. 
    As it happened the updates are done sporadicly and asynchronously. 
It is not, after all, a true snapshot of the City at a particular 
moment. Never the less it does characterize New York City within a 
decade, with the notable exception ot the World Trade Center. 
    The entire City is depicted, except for a blip of Far Rockaway 
near Reynolds Channel. Incidential bits of adjacent towns are on the 
map that happen to fit within its praecincts. They are left blank. 
    Every structure, some 850 THOUSAND of them!, is sculpted to the 
scale of 1:1,200. In oldstyle measures prevailing during the World's 
Fair this means 1 'inch' equals 100 'foot'. In today's metrics this is 
1 meter equals 1,200 meter. The late World Trade Center, still in the 
model, is about 33 cm tall for its real 400 meter height. 
    The vertical scale is full size, not expanded like for the 
Watershed model. At first the City look flat but after a while you 
notice the undulations along the glacial moraine, the Manhattan 
panhandle, west and central Bronx, central Staten Island. 
    For the Fair a simulated helicopter ride circled the map. Visitors 
rode in carnival cars along an undulating track. Recorded narration 
explained the model and helicopter noise added to the effect. After 
the Fair the ride was turned off and eventually removed in 1972. 
    Today there is a sloping walkway around three sides of the model 
It joins the ground to the second floor. Visitors sometimes miss the 
slope and find themselfs disoriented on the floor above where they 
    You enter on the ground floor on Hudson River near George 
Washington Bridge. The path runs anticlockwise along Manhattan, over 
Staten Island, south of Brooklyn and Queens, east of Queens, then ends 
on the second floor over the Bronx. You may start your visit upstairs 
and walk down clockwise to the street floor. The overlook misses the 
north, Bronx, edge of the model. 
    The Panorama is a high-maintenance facility requiring skill in 
model-building and handicrafting. The replacement structures must be 
carefully documented from photos, surveys, plans, even footwork at the 
sites. Then they must be sculpted from wood and plastic to capture 
their exterior contour and profile. 
    The smallest reasonable detail corresponds to a real distance of 2 
meter, which is enough to faithfully replicate the general outline and 
shape of the structures. In some cases liberties were taken like for 
the classical city townhouse. A stylized townhouse was developed and 
then duplicated the many thousands of times for all the townhouses in 
the City. 
    Surface texture is pretty much ignored. Windows are schematized to 
be the same for all buildings, depicted like punchcard holes! Most 
rooftop fixtures are omitted. On the other hand some minor details are 
included for realism like the cabins on the Roosevelt Island tramway, 
trees and footpaths in parks, the various els and railroads. 
    One major headache is litter. No one deliberately throws trash on 
the model but the low railing around the walkway favors accidental 
litter. Candy wraps, tissues, paper scraps, medicine pills, and other 
small items drop onto the model. They must be searched out and 
removed. A bit of tinfoil sitting on a model street is a crumpled 
truck after collision! A medicine pill becomes a boulder! 
    An other problem is the one and only animation in the model. There 
is a loop of thin wire rising from LaGuardia airport, into the 
ceiling, and back to the airport. This carries airplanes to simulate 
activity of liftoff and landing. This gets out of order frequently. I 
didn't see the planes. They were off-duty for repair? 
    In spite of the heavily stylized detail the model is amazingly 
realistic. Pictures I took of it do look like they are taken from a 
flyover of the real City. Only a close inspection shows that the 
buildings are a bit too perfect and the colors are schematized. 
    Some friends take pictures of the model to correlate with views 
from their office or home. Enlargements of the images are labeled and 
placed near the window as a guide to the scene outside. 
    During the Fair the lighting shifted between day and night. The 
helicopter narration discussed the differences in the scene. WHile I 
was at the Panorama the lighting was full daylight all the time. A 
museum guide noted that the day-night show is turned on occasionally;
    One nice effect,probable not deliberate is that water has a smooth 
texture to make real-looking reflections of sunlight. 
    Apart form the basic geography lesson taken from the Panorama, the 
model under closer study helps relate your nabe to the City as a whole 
and to adjoining nabes. You may learn why your district has its size 
and shape. 
World Trade Center 
     Updates are done irregularly after several needed changes 
accumulate and funds are available. While virtually all necessary 
alterations are eventually taken care of there is one structure that 
remains in place altho it no longer stands.
    When the World Trade Center was bombed in 2001 by hijacked 
airliners smashing into it, the museum wanted to remove its piece from 
the Panorama. There are several stories of what happened but one is 
that a worker sent to remove the Center got chills and started to 
faint as he reached down to pluck it out. 
    He was released and a second worker tried to remove the WTC. He, 
too, got sick and sweaty. The museum called off the removal and left 
the original WTC structure in place. When the new WTC is complete, 
it'll replace the late WTC in the model. 
    I could not learn if the coastline is adjusted for storm 
modifications or dredging. Areas built out by landfill are included, 
like Battery Park City. One aspect probably missed is the significant 
rise in mean water level around New York in the 50ish year period 
since the model was built. The accumulated rise is about 1/2 meter, 
which would reshape low-lying shorelines. 
Complementary exhibits
    The Panorama and Watershed maps complement each other, the former 
being an enlargement of the southeast corner of the latter. This was 
never the intent, the two being made as totally separate projects. Yet 
by hopping between the two you can visualize the circulation of water 
from the remote lakes into each district of the City. No, the Panorama 
does not show underground features, only what's visible on the ground 
and above. 
    From the Watershed map you see where the water tunnels enter the 
City from the north and then in the Panorama imagine the network of 
tunnels under the streets. If you have a map of this grid, like from 
the DEP website, you can trace the flow over the districts on the 
     The museum makes no suggestion about using the maps together, nor 
did this particular tour. Several of us stayed after the tour and 
explored the Panorama for structures related to the waterworks. There 
is High Bridge, reservoirs in Central Park and the Bronx, Manhattan 
Valley where a siphon carries the water farther south. 
    We compared the New York system with the Brooklyn waterworks, 
built before Brooklyn merged into new York. There's Ridgewood, Cypress 
Hills, and Mount Prospect former reservoirs, Conduit Bv where the 
Brooklyn aqueduct ran, Brooklyn College where Flatbush water company 
had its wells. 
Unique work 
    There were and are still made relief maps of various lands. 
Typical are maps of parklands. fairgrounds, reservations. These help 
tourists to organize their visits. Many have animation such as lighted 
itineraries and points of interest. 
    There are models of specific developments and projects used during 
public review and comment on the proposed development. They give the 
public a realistic picture of the works.                 
    There are a couple relief models of midtown Manhattan at the 
Skyscraper Museum. Other towns have models of parts of their 
territory, some to a larger scale than the Panorama and with more 
detailing on their structures. These show off the town to visitors and 
help plan their activities during their stay. 
    All in all, the Panorama is the only one in the world that covers 
an entire city at a comfortable scale and detail. Since it was built 
some 50 years ago, can there ever be a competing model, say of Berlin? 
Sure there could. But will there? 
    Unless it's just to beat out the Panorama for some book of 
records, there seems no longer any motivation to try. Since the 1960s 
and indeed the 1980s mapping and modeling transferred from wood, 
cloth, plastic, plaster to computer graphics. 
    From crude blocky graphics of the 1980s, digital modelling is now 
essentially photographicly realistic. It's used extensively now for 
portraying proposed projects and provide flythrus or walkthrus as can 
not be offered by in-the-flesh models. 
    These graphical representations have functions pretty tough to 
offer thru relief models. They can show the scene under different 
weather and hour of day, various levels of occupancy or traffic, 
stages of construction,. For potential clients or residents of the 
project, the scene can be customized toshow the storefront, furniture, 
    Does this mean there will be no more Panoramas or Watershed 
models? Not for sure. In fact in the last couple years the '3D 
printer' came to market. This device takes a digital description of a 
scene and, in the stead of rendering it on a flat printout, sends it 
to the 3D printer, whose laser carves the scene into a block of 
plastic to construct a relief model! That is, it is now far easier to 
make the models than in the old days of handicrafters and tools. 
Some anecdotes 
    In the 1990s I and a fellow astronomer worked on weekends for an 
architectural modelling company to construct a 3D model of the whole 
universe. This was based on the power-of-10 scheme where each section 
was at a tenfold scale of the adjacent one. The model started with a 
real-size book, then bay by bay, zoomed out to the super clusters of 
galaxies. Under subdued space lighting and fiber optic internal 
lighting, the scenes were utterly gorgeous. 
    The mother was crafted by a team of artists and crafters working 
at benches. They used a huge variety of tools, brushes, sprays, 
machines to exquisitely model each planet, moon, some comets, assorted 
nebulae and clusters, many asteroids, hundreds of individual stars, 
lots of galaxies. They were carefully checked against what latest 
images we had, plus reasonable extrapolation of earth-bound pictures. 
    When finished it took a dedicated crew to run it, keep the lamps 
in order, clean dust, and fix damaged parts. Our job was fun to the 
max, coming to the office with six globes of Mars on our table, all 
textured and sculpted with craters, mountains, canyons. By isolating 
one thru a paper tube it really looked like I was approaching the Red 
Planet in a spaceship! 
    In the mid 1990s my workplace shifted quarters to rooms that we 
had to build out with system furniture. I was on the crew to help the 
workers plan their move and prepare for their new cubicles. 
    I tried my hand at digital modelling with a landscape computer 
program. The shapes I needed were all rectangles for the panels and 
walls in the new rooms. This vastly simplified my task. Dimensions and 
placement were taken from the floor plan and contractor specs. 
    The effect was dropdead wonderful. While stylized, a person could, 
by keystrokes on my computer, walk into the new office, wander thru 
the rooms, enter his specific cubicle, look around. Altho the weak 
computers in our office then could handle some maximum size of 
simulation, so only one half of the office was modelled. That was 
plenty enough to give a clear picture of what to expect when we moved 
into the new office. 
    In the mid 2000s a large tract on Manhattan's west side was 
proposed for a new office and residence development, Hudson Yards. 
Competing designs were exhibited in a rented storefront near Grand 
Central Terminal, each crewed by reps from each contestant. 
    Each display consisted of a relief model of the proposed design 
with buildings, streets, furniture, trees, plus rakeaways with photos 
of the display. The crew explained its project, showing how it uses 
the land and air. It used laser pointers to indicate certain elements 
of the model and answered questions from the public. 
    Until 2009 the Citicorp Center put on a fabulous yearend holiday 
show of a model railroad. It compressed the Hudson River from 
Manhattan to Albany into a huge layout some 12 meter by 8 wide, more 
or less from my recollection. The landscape was lighted and animated 
for extra realism. It had day-night cycle. 
    All the pieces were handmade to a stepped set of scale. The 
smaller scale pieces were in the rear of the display to simulate 
distance. The rail cars, taken from commercial makers, were hand 
painted for the railroads operating in the Hudson region and for the 
various companies and factories in the area. 
    The trains were of various gauges, also to simulate distance with 
the larger scale ones in the front. 
    A takeaway pamphlet and recorded narration explained the model, 
which you could walk around to inspect its many pieces. Alas, the 
financial bust of Citicorp in 2010 killed off the show. 
    If you have an itch to explore beyond Manhattan, hop on the 
Flushing line for the Queens Museum of Art. Make it a daytrip to see 
the Panorama and Watershed maps, other exhibits in the museum, relics 
of the 1964 Fair. You can stop at the Hall of Science on the way to 
or from the el station. 
    Photographs are allowed at each map under available light. This is 
no limitation with the high sensitivity of digital cameras. Because 
your line of sight extends radially across the models, some parts of 
the image may be out of focus. 
    The museum probably has nothing left to see from the original 
interior or from the United Nations years. The interior renovations 
over the decades were massive. The exterior, while altered, retains 
most of its 1939 character.