Astroland is but a memory, but Coney Island is still 'Really FUN, Really OPEN'
By Andrew Breiner
Special to amNewYork
Astroland is gone, but Coney Island isnt.
As New Yorkers returned to the seaside neighborhood for the start of a new amusement season yesterday, they couldnt miss the citys slogan for Coney Island Really FUN, Really OPEN.
And while turnout was light for an opening day, riders still screamed their lungs out on venerable rides like the Wonder Wheel and the famous Cyclone rollercoaster. But many visitors came to mourn the empty space where the iconic park once stood.
Since its construction in 1962, Astroland was a central neighborhood attraction, with its futuristic space theme that quickly acquired a kitschy charm.
But in 2006, the Albert family, which had owned the park since the start, sold it to Thor Equities for $30 million.
After the summer of 2008, Astroland was gone. Where there were once rides like the Tilt-a-Whirl and Dantes Inferno, there is now an empty concrete lot.
The 270-foot Astro Tower is the only recognizable piece of the park that remains, standing high above the pipes, cinderblocks, and pieces of rides that litter the space below.
Thor Equities announced last week that it would bring 25 rides to Coney Island later this spring, as well as new sideshows this summer.
City officials, meanwhile, are seeking to rezone 19 blocks of Coney Island and establish a 27-acre indoor and outdoor entertainment and amusement area. The Bloomberg administration also plans to find a single operator for a 12-acre amusement park on city-controlled land. They must acquire 10 acres of land from Thor for the project.
Mary Paul, 54, who lives on nearby Ocean Avenue and rides the Cyclone every year on opening day, said the area is suffering.
Its pretty empty for an opening day with such nice weather, she said. Its because theres less to do now. They used to have such great rides.
Long-dead flowers left by Astroland fans adorn the chain-link fence that seals the site off from the bustling boardwalk. Passersby stop to look at the site, remembering their visits last year or 30 years ago.
Phil Fried, 42, of Flatbush, grew up going to Coney Island, rode the Cyclone for the first time at age 18. He had not been back in years, but when he heard Astroland was gone, he felt he had to see what was left.
I hate to see it go, he said. This is the kind of thing that brings money into Brooklyn. We cant just tear it down.
Denos Wonder Wheel Amusement Park does brisk business as the only major park left in the neighborhood, but Ritter says it isnt enough.
I like the Wonder Wheel itself, but the park is for kids, she said.