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Posts Tagged ‘Astroland’

Astroland sign from Neptune's Flume

Astroland sign from Neptune’s Flume. January 31, 2009. Photo © Tricia Vita

This set of photos was taken five years ago– January 31, 2009–on Astroland’s very last day. It was as bitter cold as it is today. In the months after the park closed in September 2008, the rides and games were dismantled and trucked away. According to the terms of Astroland’s lease extension with Thor Equities, the property had to vacated by February 1st. Amusing the Zillion did not debut until April 2009, but we posted these pix along with our thoughts on flickr:

I expected my Jan 28th visit to Astroland to be my last visit (see set). But I had some business in the area so I stopped by Astroland on Jan 31. By then there wasn’t much left and I didn’t have the heart to take more than a half dozen or so photos. Jan 31 was Astroland’s very last day, the day the lease expired and the property had to be vacated.

On Feb 1, 2009, the Astroland property became the former site of Astroland Park. Since then I refer to it as Thorland after Thor Equities. Others call it Sittville or Sittland East after Thor CEO Joe Sitt. The predatory real estate speculator who owns the 3-acre site is pressuring the city to allow for time-share high rises and shopping mall style retail. Astroland, and now the Boardwalk businesses threatened by huge Thor Space for Lease signs, are pawns or hostages in Thor’s high stakes game with the City. The City’s controversial rezoning of the C-7 amusement district is currently underway.

Abandoned old arcade machines

Abandoned old arcade machines on last day of Astroland. January 31, 2009. Photo © Tricia Vita

Among the items that remained and were about to be thrown into a dumpster were these broken old arcade machines. Boxing machines manufactured by Zamperla! Ironically, the parks division of Zamperla would build Luna Park on the former Astroland site in 2010, after this lot and other boardwalk property was bought by the City from Thor Equities for $95.6 million.

Astroland's American flag

Rescuing Astroland’s American flag – where will she wave? January 31, 2009. Photo © Tricia Vita

Jeff rescues Astroland’s American flag, which flew from the Astrotower, from soon to be Thorland. Astroland’s signs and rides are safe in storage. NOT sold to Australia or anywhere else, not yet! Perhaps the reconfigured “Astroland,” signs and all, will be able to return to a new location or its old location (if Sitt sells to the city) in Coney Island? That would be a “long shot” (Astroland owner’s words in the press). But I don’t think we should give up hope completely if the owner still has hope. Some of Astroland’s historic signs were rescued today by the Coney Island History Project.

Astroland signage

Rescuing signage from Astroland’s water flume. January 21, 2009

Home of the hot dog? This building has been used as a workshop for the last forty-some years. Astroland workers swept up for the last time on Jan 31, 2009 before vacating the property. I took these photos for my friend “Coney Islander.” who says the tiles are not only Coney Island history, but American history too. He wanted a tile as a keepsake, but we couldn’t find a loose one.

tile floor in the old Feltman's Kitchen

Home of the hot dog? The tile floor in the old Feltman’s Kitchen Bldg was swept on Astroland’s last day. January 31, 2009. Photo © Tricia Vita

Of course “the first hot dog” was invented when Feltman was pushing a pie wagon in the 1860s. But the building is all that remains of Feltman’s empire in Coney Island. The floor definitely has character. It has a story to tell. We just have to figure out what it is. Sometimes if the true story isn’t known, an apochryphal one fills the vacuum. The floor looks so old it’s easy to imagine the original hot dog falling on it. It may be doubtful as history goes, but captures the imagination.

The story unfolded a year later, when the building was being demolished to make way for Luna Park: Nathan Slept Here! Coney Island’s Feltman’s Kitchen Set for Demolition, (ATZ, January 19, 2010)

Tile floor in Feltman's Kitchen, Coney Island

Tile floor swept clean in historic Feltman’s kitchen on Astroland property. January 31, 2009. Photo © Tricia Vita

Related posts on ATZ…

July 17, 2013: Astroland Rides Find Homes in Brooklyn, Costa Rica and Australia

March 16, 2012: Rest in Peace: Jerry Albert, Co-Founder of Coney Island’s Astroland Park

December 16, 2010: Blast from the Past: LFO’s Summer Girls Music Video

May 21, 2009: Astroland Closed But Your Kid Can Still Ride the USS Astroland This Summer!

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Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park Scrambler

Astroland Scrambler Back Home in Coney Island at Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park. Photo via Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park

With only 2 months and 9 days till Coney Island’s official opening day on Palm Sunday — March 29, 2015 — new rides are starting to arrive at Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park. This year, park co-owner Dennis Vourderis says they are bringing back the popular Scrambler and adding three new family rides, including a Twist and Shout Drop Tower to Deno’s Kiddie Park. The other two new family rides slated for the kiddie park are to be announced.

Remember Astroland’s Scrambler? It’s back at home in Coney Island at Deno’s! The Scrambler will be located between the Wonder Wheel and the Barbieri Bumper Cars, which also hail from Astroland and were refurbished and returned in 2012. With 24 cars and a huge floor, it’s the largest bumper car ride in Coney. The historic 1962 Astroland Rocket was in that spot last year and has been moved across the midway.

The new drop tower, which adults and children can ride together, is set for the corner spot on the Boardwalk at West 12th Street. Nick, Deno and Dennis Vourderis went for a test ride at the IAAPA trade show in Orlando in November. “Adults can ride this one too! Yayyyyy!!!! Ordered ours with different theming and colors,” said a post on the park’s Facebook page.

Drop Tower Wonder Wheel Park

Nick, Deno and Dennis Vourderis testing new drop tower at IAAPA in Orlando. Photo via Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park

Related posts on ATZ…

December 28, 2014: Photo of the Day: Coney’s Parachute Jump & Wonder Wheel Lit for Holidays

June 4, 2014: Astroland Rocket Finds New Home Beside the Wonder Wheel

February 28, 2014: Photo Album: Wonder Wheel Park Preps for Coney Island’s Opening Day

May 21, 2009: Astroland Closed But Your Kid Can Still Ride the USS Astroland This Summer!

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In 1970, a German tourist on his first trip to New York shot this Super 8 film in Coney Island. It offers a tantalizing glimpse of the Bowery’s original arcade architecture, since destroyed by fires, and the Playland Arcade on the Boardwalk, where Nathan’s is now. You’ll also see Astroland’s Skyride and Astrotower as well as Ward’s Fairyland Park-now Deno’s Kiddie Park. Only the Wonder Wheel, which is emblazoned with a banner saying “Our 50th Year,” and the Cyclone roller coaster, look the same today. Just wish the film was longer!

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Related posts on ATZ…

September 22, 2012: Saturday Matinee: Coney Island’s Mite Mouse Coaster (1992)

August 27, 2012: Video of the Day: Raw Footage of 1960s Coney Island

March 10, 2011: Video: Seasons of the Cyclone Roller Coaster by Charles Denson

September 27, 2010: Video: The Museum of Wax by Charles Ludlam

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Stump of the Astrotower

The AstroStump, all that remains of the Astrotower, decorated for Halloween at Coney Island’s Luna Park. October 5, 2013

ATZ’s award for the creepiest, most inappropriate Halloween decoration goes to Luna Park for a bizarre attempt at paying homage to the demolished Astrotower. Formerly wrapped in a tarp, the AstroStump is all that remains of the tower, which is now bedecked with skeleton props as the centerpiece of a faux graveyard for the park’s Halloween celebration. Seeing the blackened, blow-torched edges of the chopped down icon for the first time was very unsettling. It’s like seeing the tortured corpse of a dear departed friend who would have been 50 years old next year. They got the date wrong on the tombstone–the tower debuted in 1964, not 1962.

What were they thinking? Well, the original All Hallows’ Eve provided one last chance for humans to propitiate the restless dead and for the dead to gain vengeance before moving to the next world. Not sure if dead landmarks have restless spirits, but the Astrotower was practically human since it used to sing. It’s been three months since the genuinely horrific July 4th Week when the 275-foot tower was cut apart with blowtorches in a marathon demolition following hysterical claims that it was swaying more than usual had closed most of Coney Island. The tower’s cut-down sections were carted off to the Cropsey Avenue junkyard while the stump was hidden from view by a tarp and fenced off like it had the plague.

The Remains of the Astrotower

The Astrostump is all that remains of the 275-foot Astrotower. July 7, 2013. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

Considering that not a trace remains of Astroland at the site of the former Astroland except this stump, it would have been more appropriate for Luna Park to put up a real plaque after the demolition. It’s distressing that a recollection of a tragic episode in Coney Island history, especially one that happened just three months ago, is reduced to a fake graveyard for Halloween.

However, not everyone agrees that this Halloween decoration is in bad taste. One Coney Island fan tweeted that the idea was “extremely clever.” Also in the faux graveyard are tombstones of long dead Coney luminaries such as Tilyou, Feltman, Handwerker and Mangels as well as a gravestone for Astroland Park. What do you think?

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Related posts on ATZ…

July 9, 2013: Photo Album: Remembering the Astrotower (1964-2013)

July 3, 2013: Long Live Coney Island’s Swaying, Singing Astrotower!

September 28, 2012: Astrotower Lit for 1st Time Since Astroland Closed in 2008

May 29, 2009: Astroland Star from Coney Island’s Space-Age Theme Park Donated to the Smithsonian

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This weekend was the 5th anniversary of the closing of Coney Island’s Astroland. Founded in 1962, the park’s last day of operation was Sunday, September 7, 2008. Instead of showing photos of the park’s last day and night, we’ve gathered some videos of Astroland’s most popular rides in action.

“If you want to get off this ride at any time, raise your hand, we’ll set you free, y’all better hold on. Here we go, here we go, here here we go oh…,” says the operator of the Huss Breakdance at the beginning of the on-ride video made by TheDod3.com.

According to the website, which features ride reviews, photos and videos by a very knowledgeable ride enthusiast: “Most amusement parks in the US will run their Breakdance rides at a moderate speed, turning it into a ride good for everyone. Other Breakdance rides, such as damn near every single one in Europe and Astroland’s old Breakdance, are thrill rides through and through.”

Astroland’s Breakdance and Pirate Ship went to Costa Rica. The Topspin relocated to Seaside Heights, New Jersey, where it survived Sandy and has since been sold to Deggeller Attractions, a traveling carnival.

One of the Astroland Stars from the Surf Avenue gate is in the collection of the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum. The 8-foot by 7-and-a-half-foot lighted star will be in an exhibit next year.

Since the Astrotower was demolished over the July 4th weekend, its stump is all that remains of Astroland on City-owned property in Coney Island. There are rumors that the iconic Astroland Rocket will finally return to Coney Island as promised by City officials in 2009.

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Related posts on ATZ…

September 5, 2013: It’s Time to Bring the Astroland Rocket Back to Coney Island

July 17, 2013: Astroland Rides Find Homes in Brooklyn, Costa Rica and Australia

April 14, 2012: Astroland Bumper Cars Return Home to Coney Island

May 29, 2009: Astroland Star from Coney Island’s Space-Age Theme Park Donated to the Smithsonian

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Astroland Rocket

City officials with Astroland Rocket on the day it was donated to the City of New York for display in Coney Island. Left to right, Seth Pinsky, NYCEDC President; Marty Markowitz, Borough President; Carol Hill Albert, Co-owner of Astroland; Amanda Burden, NYC Planning Commissioner; Robert Lieber, Deputy Mayor for Economic Development; Domenic Recchia Jr., City Councilman; Rob Gottheim, District Director for Rep. Jerrold Nadler. January 28, 2009. Astroland Archives/Coney Island History Project via flickr

Will the Bloomberg administration and elected officials keep their promise made in January 2009 to bring the Astroland Rocket back to Coney Island and make it “a centerpiece of the new, revitalized amusement and entertainment district”? With less than 120 days left in Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s term and the majority of officials having already left the administration or having been term limited out of office this year, the time to bring the Rocket home is now.

“The Astroland Rocket is a quintessential part of Coney Island’s history that serves as a unifying link between its fabled past and its future as a year-round entertainment destination,” said Seth W. Pinsky, then President of the New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC), at the January 28, 2009, ceremony marking the Rocket’s donation to the City by Astroland co-owner Carol Hill-Albert. “The Rocket will now join the Cyclone, the Wonder Wheel and the Parachute Jump as permanent symbols of Coney Island as it once was and the Coney Island that it will become again.”

Astroland Rocket

Astroland Rocket in Aquarium Parking Lot before leaving Coney Island. January 28, 2009. Photo © Coney Island History Project

“The Astroland Rocket is a landmark of the Coney Island community,” said Councilman Domenic M. Recchia, Jr. “I am thrilled that the ride will be safe as we move toward revitalization, and that it will return here to serve as one of the anchors for the new Coney Island. This is further evidence that the city is committed to preserving Coney Island’s past while moving toward the future.”

There have been rumblings and rumors about the Rocket over the past few weeks. Astroland co-owner Carol Hill Albert, who donated the Rocket to the City with the stipulation that it would be displayed in Coney Island, has been pressing Councilman Domenic Recchia and other officials for answers. At the same time, Wonder Wheel Park co-owner Steve Vourderis has offered to bring the Rocket to his park and restore it as a free public exhibit designed by Charles Denson of the Coney Island History Project.

Charles Denson, Executive Director of the Coney Island History Project, inside the Astroland Rocket awaiting a new generation of space adventurers! Photo © Astroland Archives/Coney Island History Project

Charles Denson says, “When Astroland was being dismantled and the Rocket’s future was uncertain, the Albert family asked me to field offers and give tours of the Rocket to interested parties. There were serious offers from educational institutions all over the world, but we really hoped that it could remain in Coney Island. I was thrilled when the City accepted the donation of the Rocket with a promise to return it to Coney Island as part of their ambitious redevelopment plan. Now is the time to bring it home.”

In January 2009, the City was trying to win support for the Coney Island rezoning and was sensitive to public opinion that the old Coney Island was being swept away. News that “The Astroland Rocket Needs a Home!” and might be sold for scrap if it remained homeless reverberated through Brooklyn and around the world. A New York City school, an aviation museum in upstate New York, a Pakistani theme park which wanted to build a Coney Island area to house it, and local businesses and private collectors vied to save the Rocket. The museum sent a team to Coney Island to figure out how to move it, but Ms. Albert finally decided it would be best to keep the Rocket in Coney Island.

Astroland Moon Rocket

Coney Island’s Star Flyer, the first ride that arrived in Astroland in 1962, was renamed “Astroland Moon Rocket” in 1963. Photo credit: © Coney Island History Project/ Astroland Archives

“This one of a kind Rocket simulator was the very first ride to arrive at Astroland Park when it was founded by my late father-in-law Dewey Albert in 1962,” said Carol Hill Albert at the ceremony. “My husband Jerome and myself are donating this in his honor and on behalf of the Coney Island History Project. It is especially fitting that this Rocket which was the first to arrive will be the last item to leave Astroland Park. On the sad occasion of closing Astroland, which has been Coney Island’s largest amusement park for 47 years- my husband Jerome and I are heartened to know that the city will be displaying the Rocket in a prominent location as part of the new Coney Island where it can continue to educate and entertain.”

At the time of the Rocket’s donation, an article in the New York Times suggested it might go to Steeplechase Plaza, but when the Plaza was completed in May 2013, there was no Rocket. Since then, news of the City’s plans for a roller coaster on City-owned land on 15th Street, an Amphitheatre on the Boardwalk and a public plaza on 10th Street, all for 2014, have been announced, but the City has been silent about the Astroland Rocket.

Astroland Rocket

This 26 seat Astro theater could return to Coney Island (beauty queen not included). Photo © Coney Island History Project/ Astroland Archives. All rights reserved.

The 50th anniversary of the grand opening of Astroland is coming up in 2014 and one of the Stars from the park’s gate, which was donated to the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum, is expected to go on display. Yet since the Astrotower was demolished over the July 4th weekend, its stump is all that remains of Astroland on City-owned property in Coney Island. The sole survivor of Astroland in Coney Island is the Bumper car ride in Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park, which was refurbished and brought back home in 2012. Signage from the Musik Express, Water Flume and other rides are in the collection of the Coney Island History Project. September 7, 2013 marks the 5th anniversary of the closing of Astroland.

Astroland Rocket

Astroland Rocket atop Gregory & Paul’s on Coney Island Boardwalk. November 4, 2006. Photo © Charles Denson via Coney Island History Project flickr

According to the CIDC’s press release at the time of the donation, “The Astroland Rocket will become a centerpiece of the new, revitalized amusement and entertainment district outlined in the City’s comprehensive plan for Coney Island. On January 21st, the City certified the Coney Island Redevelopment plan into ULURP, the seven-month long land use review process. The plan calls for the creation of a 27 acre indoor and outdoor amusement district to the east of Keyspan Stadium. The new year-round amusement district would link existing iconic elements including the Cyclone, the Parachute Jump, and the Wonder Wheel. The Astroland Rocket and restored B & B Carousell will also be located in the amusement district. The rezoned amusement district would create a nearly 60 acre amusement and entertainment district stretching from Asser Levy Park to KeySpan Stadium.”

Also in attendance at the press conference at the New York Aquarium on January 28, 2009 were Robert Lieber, then Deputy Mayor for Economic Development; Marty Markowitz, Borough President; Amanda Burden, NYC Planning Commissioner; and Rob Gottheim, District Director for Rep. Jerrold Nadler. Their statements appear in the press release along with remarks by State Senator Diane Savino and State Assemblyman Alec Brook-Krasny.

UPDATE January 6, 2014:

BLAST OFF! Today the Coney Island History Project announced: “In late December our proposal for the return of the Astroland Rocket was approved by the City and we’re now planning an extensive exhibit about the rocket and space-themed Coney attractions of the past. Ownership of the historic Rocket will be transferred to the History Project and the Vourderis family will provide a permanent home for it in Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park.”

UPDATE June 4, 2014:

Good morning and happy news! While you were sleeping the Astroland Rocket was returned to its rightful place in Coney Island after a five-year exile. The space-age attraction’s future couldn’t be brighter. Its new home is beside the magnificent Wonder Wheel.

Robert Lieber

Robert Lieber, Deputy Mayor for Economic Development, thanks Carol Hill-Albert for donating the Astroland Rocket to the City. January 28, 2009. Photo © Charles Denson via Coney Island History. Project

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Related posts on ATZ…

July 9, 2013: Photo Album: Remembering the Astrotower (1964-2013)

April 14, 2012: Astroland Bumper Cars Return Home to Coney Island

May 29, 2009: Astroland Star from Coney Island’s Space-Age Theme Park Donated to the Smithsonian

May 21, 2009: Astroland Closed But Your Kid Can Still Ride the USS Astroland This Summer!

Read Full Post »

Astroland

Pirate Ship from Surf Avenue, Sept. 7, 2008. Photo © Bruce Handy/Pablo57 via flickr

Since the July 4th demolition of the Astrotower, the last remnant of Astroland in Luna Park, readers have been asking “What happened to the rest of Astroland’s rides?” and there has been speculation on the Coney Island message board.

Astroland’s rides were taken down and removed from the property by the Albert family at the end of 2008 and the majority were sold to other parks, both in the U.S and abroad. ATZ spoke with Mark Blumenthal, former operations manager of Astroland, who has overseen the sale of the rides. The biggest surprise for readers will be that Neptune’s Water Flume, which was widely assumed to have been scrapped after being disassembled, was sold to a park in South America.

Water flume ticketbooth

Astroland’s last night, water flume ticket booth. September 7, 2008. Photo © me-myself-i/Tricia Vita via flickr

The only Astroland ride currently in Coney Island is the Barbieri bumper cars with their psychedelic artwork and rainbow-trimmed pavilion. The ride was refurbished by Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park and brought back home to Coney Island in 2012 with new cars added post-Sandy. You can catch a glimpse of the ride in the “I Love New York” TV commercial about New York’s beaches in which Wonder Wheel Park is featured.

Bumper Cars at Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park, Coney Island. May 15, 2013. Via Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park flickr

Here’s a rundown of the Astroland rides new locations, courtesy of Mark Blumenthal. He now manages Adventurer’s Park in Brooklyn, where the Astroland Teacups and Circuit 2000 have found a new home.

Dante’s Inferno, the Tilt-A-Whirl and the Scrambler are still for sale, he says, along with the Bonanza Shooting Gallery, which was next to Gregory & Paul’s on Surf Avenue.

Topspin

Topspin on Astroland’s Last Night, September 7, 2008. Photo © Bruce Handy/Pablo57 via flickr

The Topspin relocated to Seaside Heights, New Jersey, where it survived Sandy and has since been sold to Deggeller Attractions, a traveling carnival.

The Enterprise at Casino Pier in Seaside Heights also survived Sandy but is not running this year due to damage to the pier.

The Pirate Ship and Breakdancer went to Costa Rica. The Kiddie Coaster is in Australia.

One of the Astroland stars from the Surf Avenue gate is in the collection of the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum. The 8-foot by 7-and-a-half-foot lighted star will be on display with other space-age icons in the Museum’s Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center after construction is completed.

UPDATE January 6, 2014:

BLAST OFF! Today the Coney Island History Project announced: “In late December our proposal for the return of the Astroland Rocket was approved by the City and we’re now planning an extensive exhibit about the rocket and space-themed Coney attractions of the past. Ownership of the historic Rocket will be transferred to the History Project and the Vourderis family will provide a permanent home for it in Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park.”

Deno's Wonder Wheel Park

Astroland Bumper Car Pavilion in Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park, Coney Island. June 21, 2013. Via Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park flickr

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Related posts on ATZ…

July 9, 2013: Photo Album: Remembering the Astrotower (1964-2013)

July 3, 2013: Long Live Coney Island’s Swaying, Singing Astrotower!

March 16, 2012: Rest in Peace: Jerry Albert, Co-Founder of Coney Island’s Astroland Park

May 21, 2009: Astroland Closed But Your Kid Can Still Ride the USS Astroland This Summer!

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