Time running out on Astroland's 2009 hopes
Astrolands co-owner says she is coming to grips with the realization that her storied Coney Island amusement park may close for good next month.
Carol Hill Albert said yesterday the only way Astroland will reopen in 2009 is if Thor Equities, which owns the property, offers a one-year lease extension by the end of next week. If no agreement is reached by then, Albert said she would begin putting the parks rides up for sale.
Albert said she spoke with Thor officials last week and was told they really were not in a position right now to make a decision, that they would try to get back to me soon, but there were no guarantees.
Much like a year ago, when Thor gave Astroland an 11th-hour, one-year lease extension, Albert had been holding out hope this summer that the amusement park could return in 2009.
But when asked yesterday if she was resigned to the fact that this could be the 46-year-old parks final season, Albert responded, I kind of am. Im getting there.
Its really very difficult for us to keep trying to run a business on a year-to-year basis, said Albert, who co-owns the park with her husband, Jerome Albert. People have their lives to plan, so we really cannot wait forever.Astroland employs 370 people during the summer, 90 of whom work year-round.
The park will close for the season Sept. 7. Its lease expires Jan. 31.
In a prepared statement, Thor spokesman Stefan Friedman said Astroland is signed until January, 2009, adding that the developer is focused on sponsoring events in Coney Island this summer.
Astrolands signature ride, the Cyclone roller coaster, is a protected city landmark and will continue to operate next year.
The Alberts sold their 3.1-acre waterfront property to Thor in November 2006 for $30 million. Thor planned a $1.5 billion redevelopment for 10 acres between West 10th and West 15th streets, which would have included a new amusement park, a water theme park, hotels and other offerings.
However, in an effort to protect Coney Island as an amusement district, the Bloomberg administration has since announced a plan to acquire nine acres, including much of the Astroland property, from landowners and designate it parkland. Bloomberg then hopes to attract a single operator to develop a city-owned amusement park.
The earliest the city expects to break ground on the project is next fall. The project is undergoing an environmental impact review, and the formal rezoning approval process will begin before the end of the year, said Lynn Kelly, president of the Coney Island Development Corp., which is charged by City Hall to protect the amusement district.
Kelly said the loss of Astroland would underscore the need for Coney Island to be rezoned.
This is a real call to action for everyone to pay attention because what happens is the more vacant property that ends up in Coney Island, the more opportunity it is for any landowner in the future to say to a future administration, Hey, this zoning doesnt work. I have lots of vacant property. I want to do luxury condominiums and a giant mall, Kelly said. And you know what? They might get it. Thats why its so important to get the zoning done now.
-- Ryan Chatelain