The New York Hall of Science was established in 1964 as part of the World’s Fair in Flushing Meadows Corona Park, and at the time, was one of only a few science museums in existence. Unlike many other institutions, which were closed immediately or soon after the Fair, NYSCI remained open and served as a resource for students until 1979, when it closed for major renovations.
New York City hired physicist Alan Friedman in 1984 to help with NYSCI’s transition. He oversaw the change from a focus on science fiction to relevance in the lives of everyday people. In 1986, NYSCI re-opened, giving New York City back its only science museum. Plans for the display of an atom were realized as a part of a $400,000 expansion and renovation at NYSCI. NYSCI’s growth and ability to draw crowds was unexpected and led to the city’s pursuit of further funds and expansion.
At the time of its re-opening, NYSCI was unique in that it also provided a training program for science majors who could then go on to study under a tuition waiver program at nearby Queens College in exchange for committing to spend at least two years in city schools that needed science educators. NYSCI’s role in the life of city school children continued, and, in 1991, it announced plans for a ten-year, $80 million renovation and expansion to be able to meet the needs of a growing visitorship. Further expansion, which included a new entrance, dining area and a science playground began in 1996, reflecting the need for constant updates in science museums to keep their displays current and relevant. In recognition of its continued upgrading, NYSCI was granted the status of a New York City cultural institution, a distinction given only to a limited number of organizations.
In 1999, NYSCI furthered plans for growth by doubling its exhibition space and restoring its famous rockets, which were originally donated by the Space Program for the World’s Fair.
Today, NYSCI stands as New York City’s only hands-on science and technology center. More than 450 exhibits explore biology, chemistry and physics. NYCSI serves over 500,000 visitors each year, with an additional 50,000 participating in off-site, school-based and community outreach programs.