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Posts Tagged ‘Coney Island History Project’

Find the perfect holiday gift for the Coney aficionado on your list with ATZ’s 12 Days of Coney Island Christmas Gift Guide. Like the People’s Playground itself, some of the selections are seasonal pleasures, while others can be enjoyed year round. All can be purchased online.

Polar Bear Plunge

I Did It! New Year’s Day Polar Bear Plunge, Coney Island. Photo © Tricia Vita

The 111-year-old Coney Island Polar Bear Club has hats, T-shirts, hoodies and blankets ($15-$40) sporting their bear-y adorable logo for sale online. The blanket will come in handy if you plan to join the annual January 1st Polar Bear Dip. Did you know this hugely popular event is also a fundraiser for Camp Sunshine, where children with life-threatening illnesses and their families can enjoy a summer vacation?

You and your friends can register online now and pledge a donation to this year’s plunge or help participants like “Cold Is The New Hot!!!” and Lutheran Medical Center’s “Team Spartacus” meet their fundraising goals here. Seven per cent of the $50,000 goal has been raised as of December 9th. Any plunger raising $100 or more will receive a long sleeve Freezin’ for a Reason shirt. Participants over 21 also will receive a limited edition “The Plunge” pint glass, compliments of Coney Island Brewing Company, and an invitation to an after party with the Coney Island Polar Bear Club at Peggy O’Neill’s on Surf Avenue.

Frozen custard

Frozen custard from Rita’s Italian Ice

Rita’s of Coney Island is closed till spring but sells gift cards ($5-$100) online year-round. When store owner Ezra Shalam opened the Rita’s franchise this year on Surf Avenue, he brought genuine frozen custard back home to the place of its origin. The dessert made its debut in 1919 when the Kohr brothers opened a stand on the Coney Island Boardwalk. The nickel treat was a sensation, selling 18,460 cones on the first weekend! Rita’s menu also offers Italian ice, layered gelati, sundaes with a choice of 20 toppings, sugar-free treats, and items that blend Italian ice with frozen custard.

Coney Island Snow Globe

Coney Island Snow Globe, Lola Star Boutique

Lola Star’s souvenir boutique, which started out on the Coney Island Boardwalk in 2000, has a satellite location on Bedford Avenue in Williamsburg as well as an online store stocked with her unique designs. This Coney Island Snow Globe features a mermaid amid miniature versions of the amusement area’s landmark rides ($8). For the same price you can also get a Coney lovebird-themed mousepad. Other stocking stuffers include shot glasses ($6) and an array of Lola Star T-shirts for kids of all ages and adults. Disappointed the games are closed and you can’t spend money to win a plush toy? Order a Hello Kitty Coney Cupcake or Polka Dotted Octopus ($7-$10).

Brooklyn Cyclones

The Brooklyn Cyclones’ Foam Hand

Since Brooklyn Cyclones’ tickets for the 2015 season won’t go on sale till next year, you could write an I.O.U. and drop it in the Christmas stocking. Or buy the fans something they can get their hands on now: A Foam Hand in Christmas-y red or blue with a #1 emblazoned on the index finger and the Cyclones’ roller coaster logo on each side ($7.99). A plush snow bear ornament sporting a Cyclones scarf and a red hat ($11.99) and Cyclones apparel are also available at their online store along with merch for the Brooklyn Bolts, the team that brought pro football back to Brooklyn for the first time since the NFL’s Brooklyn Dodgers in 1946.

Zipper: Coney Island's Last Wild Ride

Zipper: Coney Island’s Last Wild Ride

“A small-time ride operator and his beloved carnival contraption become casualties in the battle over the future of Coney Island” is the capsule description of Amy Nicholson’s documentary Zipper, which is available on DVD for just $10 via the film’s online store.. Read ATZ’s review of the film here and see the trailer here. The Deluxe Edition DVD ($20) has Spanish subtitles plus a few extras: A 15-minute movie of the film crew’s trip to Honduras to find the Zipper, where it was sold after being evicted from Coney Island, and a short funny “adult” story by Zipper crew members Joey and Don. Through January 1st, the store is offering a free Zipper tote with a two item purchase.

Ruby's shirt

Red Ruby’s Bar & Grill Tee

In 1975, Ruby Jacobs bought the Hebrew National Deli and Bar on the boardwalk, which had opened in 1934, and turned it into Ruby’s Bar and Restaurant. This summer, his daughter and son-in-law and their kids, who run the place, marked the beloved hang-out’s 80th anniversary. These red Ruby’s T-shirts ($20) with “Celebrating 80 Years” on the back are among the Ruby’s souvenirs in the bar’s online store. “As is our tradition, we WILL be open for the Polar Bear Club’s annual plunge on New Year’s Day,” says a post on their Facebook page.”Ruby’s is looking forward to seeing you again in 2015!”

Steeplechase horse

Steeplechase horse at the Coney Island History Project

An original Steeplechase horse from one of Coney’s first thrill rides is among the rare artifacts on view at the Coney Island History Project. The history organization offers 1-1/2 hour walking tours ($20 per person) year-round that include a private visit to their exhibit center during the off-season. Advance tickets for 2015 may be purchased online. Walking tours are based on History Project director Charles Denson’s classic book Coney Island: Lost and Found ($29.95), which along with other publications is available on the History Project’s website.

Paul's Daughter

Paul’s Daughter Tee from Brooklyn Brewery

While Papa Burger, an A & W Root Beer figure from the 1960s, still anchors the Luna Park side of Paul’s Daughter’s rooftop, Mama Burger was damaged by Superstorm Sandy. The eight-foot-tall fiberglass figure got knocked over — at first she was thought to be missing– and her hamburger and Brooklyn Brewery mug blew away. The Brewery has come up with a T-shirt to pay tribute to Mama Burger ($25) and raise funds toward her restoration. “They have a real love for Mama Burger,” says Paul’s Daughter Tina Georgoulakos, who recalls how one day her father took a Brooklyn Brewery sign and stuck it on the figure’s beer mug. “I have to find people who can restore her.”

Beer Book

28 Beers at 28 Bars for $28

Brokelyn.com’s The South Brooklyn and The Rockaways Beer Book ($28) has vouchers for 28 beers at 28 bars including Coney Island’s Freak Bar, Peggy O’Neill’s and Ruby’s Bar & Grill. So that’s $1.00 a beer! The other 25 vouchers are an enticement to bar hop to Bay Ridge, Gerritsen Beach, Gravesend, Marine Park, Sheepshead Bay, Sunset Park, and Rockaway.

The Tickler, A Wild Mouse style coaster, at Luna Park. Photo © Tricia Vita

Coney Island’s amusement parks open for the 2015 season on Palm Sunday, March 29th. Though Luna Park is currently closed for a winter’s nap, the park is offering a December discount on pre-ordered wristbands. Customers who buy one wristband for $32 get a second one free. The deal offers unlimited access to 22 rides at Luna Park for a 4 hour period. Extreme thrill rides, such as the Cyclone and Thunderbolt, and the B&B Carousell are not included on the wristband. Check website for details.

Sea Otter NY Aquarium

Sea Otter at NY Aquarium. Photo © Julie Larsen Maher/WCS

While recovering from Sandy and building the new “Ocean Wonders: Sharks!” exhibit, scheduled to open in spring 2016, the New York Aquarium remains open 365 days a year. Gift memberships help the Wildlife Conservation Society save wildlife and wild places worldwide and start at $75. Benefits include free admission to the Aquarium as well as the Bronx Zoo and three other zoos in the City. One of the perks of premium membership ($119-$189) is free parking in the Aquarium’s lot, which is a very desirable perk for frequent visitors to Coney Island.

Mermaid Parade

The first bribe of the Mermaid Parade? The Chief Justice pouring rum. Photo © Tricia Vita

It’s time to deck the halls with boughs of holly, but is anyone else dreaming of summer? It’s not too early to buy a judgeship for the annual Mermaid Parade, which is Saturday, June 20, 2015. Parade organizer and arts org Coney Island USA’s $150 Big Spender membership entitles the giftee to be an official Judge of the Mermaid Parade with VIP seating on the reviewing stand and a Mermaid Parade Judge T-shirt. Oh, and partake in the bribes offered to the judges by the paraders: beer, vodka, more beer, chocolate cake, beer, lubricants, play money, glow in the dark octopus toy, more beer, more vodka, lemonade, rum balls, and finally more beer. It’s no wonder the judgeships are “sold out” well before the parade. Memberships support arts programming at CIUSA and start at $35 with benefits including free admission to the freak show.

Happy Holidays to All!

Related posts on ATZ…

December 18, 2013: Photo Album: Christmas Peddlers in Old New York

December 13, 2013: Photo Album: Gingerbread Coney Island in City Harvest Extravaganza

September 13, 2013: Coney Island Always: Visiting the Big CI Year-Round

December 18, 2011: Playing Santa at the Coney Island Polar Bear Plunge

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Astroland Rocket

Astroland Rocket Back Home in Coney Island — Next to the Wonder Wheel in Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park! June 4, 2014. Photo © Charles Denson via Coney Island History Project flickr

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 in Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park. The long-retired Rocket ride will be made into a multimedia exhibit featuring the history of flight-themed attractions in Coney Island. The space simulator was the first attraction to arrive at Astroland in 1962. TIME hailed it as the “Cape Canaveral Satellite Jet” while Billboard called it “The Spaceship Auditorium.”

“Outer space simulators have played a prominent role in Coney’s amusement history,” said Coney Island History Project director Charles Denson, who will design the exhibit. “It began when Thompson and Dundy brought ‘A Trip to the Moon’ to Steeplechase Park in 1902 and culminated in 1962, at the height of the space race, with Astroland’s Moon Rocket.”

Star Flyrer Astroland

Star Flyer copyright Astroland Archives / Coney Island History Project

The History Project’s proposal was approved by the City’s Economic Development Corporation, which issued an RFP in November and transferred ownership to the nonprofit organization a few days ago. After Astroland lost its lease in 2009, the Rocket was removed from atop Gregory & Paul’s roof, where it perched for decades and had become part of the store’s vernacular signage. The space ship was donated to the City of New York by Astroland Park owners Carol and Jerry Albert. “The Rocket will become a permanent and iconic part of the 27 acre redeveloped amusement district in Coney Island,” said the press release from the Coney Island Development Corporation on January 28, 2009, the day the Rocket left Coney Island.

This summer, Wonder Wheel Park’s Steve and Stacy Vourderis hope to make the Rocket the focal point of the park’s annual History Day celebration on August 9th. But it may take awhile before the 26-seat Astro theater is in shipshape to welcome a new generation of space adventurers. The 71-foot-long, 12,000-pound Rocket was damaged during Superstorm Sandy while in storage at the City’s Staten Island Homeport facility. The restoration of the Rocket is in the very capable hands of Steve Vourderis, who meticulously restored the Wonder Wheel for the first time when his family bought it 30 years ago and has kept the 1920 landmark and the park’s other rides in perfect condition ever since.

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

The Rocket joins another survivor of Astroland in Wonder Wheel Park. The Bumper car ride with its distinctive rainbow marquee was refurbished and brought back to Coney Island in 2012. Signage from the Musik Express, Water Flume and other rides are in the collection of the Coney Island History Project. In the Washington D.C. area, one of the 8-foot by 7-and-a-half-foot lighted stars from the park’s gate, which was selected by curator Margaret Weitekamp for the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum’s collection, is slated to go on display next year in the Museum’s Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center .

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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LunaTics Ice Cream

Opening Day at LunaTics Ice Cream on Surf Avenue. May 24, 2014. Photo © Tricia Vita via flickr

On Saturday, several new businesses and exhibits opened for the season, with some operators pulling all nighters in the race to be ready for the start of Memorial Day Weekend. Among them was LunaTics Ice Cream, located in the former Island Grocery on the south side of Surf Avenue. Dennis Corines, who operated Denny’s Ice Cream a few doors away on Surf from the 1970’s until he sold his building to Coney Island USA in 2011, is a consultant to store owner Shaukat Mian.

LunaTics Ice Cream Coney Island

Denny’s Banana Pistachio at LunaTics Ice Cream. May 24, 2014. Photo © Tricia Vita via flickr

On Saturday they offered us a banana pistachio which tasted exactly like the last one we had in the summer of 2012, when CIUSA operated Denny’s. That’s not so long ago, but since Denny’s was destroyed by Sandy and the building is now occupied by an antique shooting gallery, we never expected to taste it again. Delicious!

LunaTics Ice Cream

Dennis Corines former owner of Denny’s Ice Cream and Shaukat Mian former operator of Island Grocery. May 24, 2014. Photo © Tricia Vita via flickr

Shaukat Mian owns the building at 1224 Surf and operated Island Grocery at the location for 13 years. His brand-new business offers a menu similar to Denny’s. There’s soft serve ice cream in vanilla, chocolate, banana and pistachio, as well as hard ice cream, Italian ices, shakes, and cotton candy, popcorn, jelly apples and funnel cake.

The Face of Steeplechase Coney Island History Project

Charles Denson with detail of “The Face of Steeplechase” exhibit at the Coney Island History Project. May 24, 2014. Photo © Tricia Vita via flickr

At the non-profit Coney Island History Project on West 12th Street, a new exhibit pays tribute to the ubiquitous symbol of Coney Island, George C. Tilyou’s “Funny Face.” Variations of the Face are used to promote a slew of Coney Island products and businesses today and inspired New Jersey’s “Tillie” but it was original to Tilyou’s Steeplechase Park (1897-1964). Curated by Coney Island historian Charles Denson and featuring rare photos from his archives, the exhibit commemorates the 50th anniversary of the closing of Steeplechase and the 100th anniversary of Tilyou’s death.

The Face of Steeplechase Park: Gams, Garters, and Stockings!

Photo of the Blowhole Theater from “The Face of Steeplechase Park: Gams, Garters, and Stockings!” at the Coney Island History Project

According to the exhibit notes and the photos, the Face was originally believed to be a caricature of Tilyou’s brother Edward and underwent many changes during the park’s lifetime. “Sometimes it was a gleeful, maniacal visage,” writes Denson. “At other times, it appeared as inscrutable as the Mona Lisa.” “The Face of Steeplechase Park: Gams, Garters, and Stockings!” opened on Saturday and is on view weekends and holidays through Labor Day. Admission is free of charge.

Surf & Stillwell Brooklyn Apparel Co.

Surf & Stillwell Brooklyn Apparel Co. In Thor Equities Building on Stillwell Avenue in Coney Island. May 24, 2014. Photo © Tricia Vita via flickr

Surf & Stillwell Brooklyn Apparel Co. opened on Saturday after getting their custom-made sign up on the building in the wee hours of the morning. It’s located on the Stillwell Avenue side of Thor Equities building in a space leased by Wampum last summer. Owned by Maya Haddad Miller and her brother Yaniv Haddad, the store will sell private label clothing. The spinoff of Brooklyn Beach Shop will be the fifth store owned by the Haddad family in Coney Island, where they have operated retail shops since 1996.

Surf & Stillwell partners Maya Haddad Miller and her brother Yaniv Haddad

Surf & Stillwell partners Maya Haddad Miller and her brother Yaniv Haddad

The new store is across the avenue from Nathan’s as well as the Coney Island Beach Shop, which Maya and Yaniv’s father Haim Haddad opened in 2002. Brooklyn Beach Shop has locations on the Boardwalk and inside Stillwell Terminal. Nathan’s Gift Shop on the Boardwalk is also operated by the Haddads, who have a licensing agreement with Nathan’s. Surf & Stillwell is the only new store so far this year in Thor’s retail building. Current tenants are It’Sugar, Brooklyn Rock, Rainbow Shops and the Brooklyn Nets.

Fred Kahl Scan-O-Rama

Fred Kahl at his Scan-O-Rama Booth. May 5, 2014. Photo © Tricia Vita via flickr

Last summer, we wrote about Fred Kahl’s futuristic 3-D portrait studio in a former fortuneteller’s booth in Coney Island. After raising more than $16,000 via Kickstarter to fund the project, he kept the studio open year-round and it remains open Saturdays from 12 till 5pm during the spring and summer. Duplicates of the 3-D portraits are featured in a populated scale model of Thompson and Dundy’s Luna Park circa 1914 which debuted on Saturday at the Coney Island Museum.

3D Luna Park by Fred Kahl

Fred Kahl’s 3D Luna Park Installation at Coney Island Museum. Photo via TheGreatFredini.com

“Luna Park has a special place in history, a witness to the society being transformed by technology. These are the themes that are relevant to us today as our world undergoes the third industrial revolution,” says Kahl whose impressive installation is the first phase of a work in progress. “Big sigh of relief, now I need to get printing the rest of Luna Park.” The exhibit is on view during museum hours, which are currently Friday through Sunday. Admission is $5.00.

Luna Park's White Castle Trailer

Luna Park’s White Castle Trailer on Wonder Wheel Way at Stillwell Avenue, May 24, 2014. Photo © Tricia Vita via flickr

White Castle Express opened in Luna Park on Saturday at both the Cyclone Cafe and in the former Luna BBQ trailer on Wonder Wheel Way. After breaking the news on Friday (“White Castle Sliders Coming to Coney Island,” ATZ May 23, 2014) we’re still baffled by the divergence of friends’ reactions–from mmmm to ugh. From comments on twitter, it’s clear WC has quite a following, probably because they’ve been in biz since 1921 and in New York since 1930. That puts them in a different category than chains like Johnny Rockets (“The Original Hamburger,” founded in 1986!) and other newbies. We tried some fries and the price was right for a quick snack. Only $2.19 for medium fries including tax.

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April 25, 2014: Under Construction: New Mom & Pops Coming to Coney Island’s Surf Ave

December 31, 2013: Amusing the Zillion’s Coney Island 2013 Year in Review

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Coney Island signage

Coney Island signage in Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park with Luna Park’s Electro Spin, Air Race and Cyclone in background. March 21, 2014. Photo © Tricia Vita

Coney Island’s amusements officially open for the season in just one day–on Palm Sunday! Freebies abound at the People’s Playground for early birds who relish being among the first as well as for casual visitors all day long.

–The first 100 people on line at both the landmark Cyclone and Wonder Wheel will get a free ride. Rides open after the 11am Blessing of the Rides at Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park and the 11:45am Egg Cream Christening at the Cyclone. For the rest of the day, a ride on the Cyclone, which usually costs $9, will be discounted to $6. At Deno’s, over 200 Coney Island kids from the local Salt and Sea Mission will be treated to free rides, toys and Easter bags. In addition to face-painters and stiltwalkers, Ray Balloons will be on hand to make free balloon animals for visitors and DJ Joe will spin tunes on the Boardwalk.

face-painters, balloon artists, a DJ, and stilt-walkers

–The Coney Island History Project‘s exhibition center, where historic artifacts, photographs, maps, ephemera and films are on view, offers free admission from 1 till 6pm. Visitors are invited to take free souvenir photos with the Spook-A-Rama Cyclops or an original Steeplechase horse. Next door to the History Project are windows featuring the dancing doll “Miss Coney Island” and the miniature animated rides of “Coney Island Always.” “25 cents to laugh. 25 cents to smile.”

Coney Island Always

Coney Island Always. 25 cents To Laugh and Feel Good. West 12th St, Coney Island. April 8, 2012. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

–Coney Island USA’s Noisefest is a free event from 2 till 5pm featuring Rock ‘n’ Roll Karaoke with the band Mystical Children and a “Follow the Bouncing Ball Vintage Movie Singalong” by the Museum of Interesting Things.

Rita’s Italian Ice is celebrating the Grand Opening of its Coney Island store by offering free regular size ices to visitors all day Sunday as well as Monday.

The rides at Luna Park, Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park, 12th Street Amusements and the Eldorado Bumper Cars will continue spinning daily through April 22nd during spring break for New York City’s public schools. For the rest of April and May, the rides will be open weekends until Memorial Day Weekend, when the daily schedule kicks off for the summer.

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

September 13, 2013: Coney Island Always: Visiting the Big CI Year-Round

March 25, 2013: Photo of the Day: Palms on Palm Sunday in Coney Island

March 28, 2012: Photo Album: Looking Back at Coney Island’s Opening Day

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Coney Island History Project Collection

On the Beach, 1934. Coney Island History Project Collection

On Presidents Day, the Coney Island History Project and Urban Neighborhood Services are celebrating Black History Month with a slideshow of historic images and a panel discussion in Coney’s West End. Among the photos are this wonderful snapshot of “Tootsie, Blanche and Alma” on Coney Island beach in 1934. “The History of Coney Island’s West End and the Presence and Contributions of African Americans in Coney Island from the 1600s to the Present” will feature never-before-seen images from the archive of History Project director Charles Denson as well as photos that he took in the 1970s. The free event is on February 17 from 4-6pm at PS 329, 2929 West 30th Street in Coney Island.

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December 18, 2013: Photo Album: Christmas Peddlers in Old New York

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April 4, 2012: Photo of the Day: Granville T. Woods Memorial Trolley Pole

January 18, 2012: Video of the Day: Climbing Coney Island’s Parachute Jump

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Steeplechase Pier Reopened

Steeplechase Pier reopened today with a wavy new lounger and other amenities. October 2, 2013. Photo © Charles Denson, Coney Island History Project via flickr

Coney Island’s Steeplechase Pier, which has been under construction since March, was inspected and reopened today to the delight of visitors enjoying the summery weather. The reopening happened without any official fanfare nearly a year after the pier was damaged during Superstorm Sandy. Today, the construction workers simply left for the last time and the sunbathers, fishermen and photographers returned to their usual spots and found some new ones, including the wave-shaped bench seen above. Among the first to set foot on the sleek new pier was the Coney Island History Project‘s Charles Denson, who shot these amazing photos.

Steeplechase Pier

View from newly reconstructed Steeplechase Pier, Coney Island. October 2, 2013. Photo © Charles Denson, Coney Island History Project via flickr

New amenities on the 1,000 foot long pier include a communal lounger made of wave-shaped wood and a variety of seating options. The wood on all the benches as well as the handrail wood is reclaimed ipe from the old decking that was on the pier. There’s also a shade structure with letters spelling out CONEY ISLAND that cast an elegant shadow on the pier and can be viewed from above by seagulls, helicopters and the gods of the air.

LTL Architects custom designed the benches as well as the overhead screens. Their redesign for the reconstruction of the pierwon Special Recognition at the 31st Annual Awards for Excellence in Design by the New York City Design Commission. Vibha Agarwala of LTR Architects told ATZ the construction is complete but there will be some final touches, including bait cutting stations. The work was carried out by T.B. Penick and their New York division Triton Structural. The construction company was awarded projects totaling $120 million for repairs to New York City’s Superstorm Sandy damaged beaches.

Steeplechase Pier

Coney Island’s Reconstructed Steeplechase Pier. October 2, 2013. Photo © Charles Denson, Coney Island History Project via flickr

Over the weekend, word on the Boardwalk was that Steeplechase Pier, which has been under reconstruction due to damage sustained last October during Superstorm Sandy, would reopen this week. The Parks Department confirmed the pier would open soon but did not announce a date. October 29, 2013 will be the anniversary of the storm surge that devastated Coney Island. Steeplechase Pier had to be completely reconstructed post-Sandy and was originally expected to be finished by July. The rebuilt pier and the landmarked Parachute Jump are the sole survivors of Coney Island’s Steeplechase Park, which closed in 1964.

Steeplechase Pier

Workers leaving as reconstructed Steeplechase Pier reopened today. October 2, 2013. Photo © Charles Denson, Coney Island History Project via flickr

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April 14, 2013: Photo Update: Sunken Barge at Steeplechase Pier in Coney Island

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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!

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