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Posts Tagged ‘rezoning’

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.”

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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Demolition scaffolding on Stillwell side of Henderson Building. Oct 7, 2010. Photo © Bruce Handy/Pablo 57 via flickr

Demolition scaffolding on Stillwell side of Henderson Building. Oct 7, 2010. Photo © Bruce Handy/Pablo 57 via flickr

On Thursday, Coney Island’s former Henderson Music Hall and Bank of Coney Island buildings moved one step closer to total annihilation by the hammer of Thor. Next time you arrive in Coney and step out of Stillwell Terminal, the gateway to Coney Island, you may be just in time to see and snap documentary photos of a real, live demolition!

We’re not referring to a demolition derby folks, but the sad and shameful dismantling of four historic Coney Island buildings. Joe Sitt of Thor Equities did not respond to preservationists’ efforts to “save” or re-purpose the buildings, but the City of New York is also to blame for having rezoned the parcels for 30-story high-rise hotels in 2009. On Thursday morning, workmen began putting up demolition scaffolding around Thor Equities-owned Henderson Building at the corner of Surf Avenue and Stillwell. Before they quit for the day, the first piece of scaffolding had been erected in front of the Bank of Coney Island building on West 12th Street. On Friday, the workmen finished the scaffolding at the Henderson.

First piece of demolition scaffolding erected at Bank of Coney Island Building.  Oct 7, 2010. Photo © Bruce Handy/Pablo 57 via flickr

First piece of demolition scaffolding erected at Bank of Coney Island Building. Oct 7, 2010. Photo © Bruce Handy/Pablo 57 via flickr

The demolition will be a weekday event due to the demo company’s work schedule. These guys usually start work early in the morning. The Coney Island Fun Guide is unlikely to list this event, but you can depend on ATZ’s twitter feed for updates on which building is being demolished and when. We intend to follow this story to the bitter end! If you’re working on a documentary about Coney Island redevelopment, you won’t want to miss it! The demolition is expected to be finished within a 40-day time frame, according to sources.

Demolition scaffolding at Thor Equities-owned Henderson Building. Oct 7, 2010. Photo © Bruce Handy/Pablo 57 via flickr

Demolition scaffolding at Thor Equities-owned Henderson Building. Oct 7, 2010. Photo © Bruce Handy/Pablo 57 via flickr

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Related posts on ATZ…

April 29, 2010: Photo of the Day: Interior of Coney Island’s Doomed Henderson Music Hall

April 21, 2010: Thor’s Coney Island: Tattered Tents, Deathwatch for Historic Buildings

March 3, 2010: Thor’s Coney Island: What Stillwell Looked Like Before Joe Sitt

February 10, 2010: Thor’s Coney Island: Amusement Operators Balk, Money Talks at Stillwell

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Shoot out the Star--Players Wanted! Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

Shoot out the Star--Players Wanted! October 30, 2009. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

Following the fortunes of Shoot out the Star on Stillwell Ave is one of my Coney Island obsessions. On Friday afternoon, the day before Halloween, I wasn’t surprised to see the metal gate rolled up and the shooting gallery open for business. CB, who runs the game for Slim, has been known to stay open long after Coney’s rides and most other games close around Columbus Day. On Friday he wasn’t looking any farther ahead than the next couple of days. We spent a good half hour cutting up jackpots about Coney Island present and future. Every time someone walked by, we’d stop talking and CB would call them in to play. “Shoot out the Star! $2.00 for 100 shots!”

Located in the Henderson Building on Stillwell across the street from Nathan’s, Shoot out the Star has a prime location. In the summer, people pour out of the subway terminal on the way to the beach and Boardwalk and many stop to play. At this time of year the stream of people has slowed to a trickle of tourists with cameras and Nathan’s coffee cups in hand. When nobody but nobody would stop to Shoot out the Star, ATZ chimed in: “This is the last game open in all of Coney Island! This is your very last chance to play!” We should add—last chance till Palm Sunday 2010, when Coney Island’s rides and attractions, including the Cyclone and Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park, reopen and the crowds return.

Coney ISland's Shoot out the Star, July 2008. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

Coney Island's Shoot out the Star, July 2008. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

Shoot out the Star’s iconic signage is the work of Dreamland Artists Club founder Steve Powers, who also did the Cyclone seats and the Bump Your Ass Off signs on the Eldorado Bumper Cars and the delightfully quirky stairway at the Coney Island Museum. Last December, Thor Equities put up a huge “Space for Lease” banner on the Henderson Building that dwarfed Shoot out the Star. The banners went up on Thor’s properties throughout Coney Island days before Christmas, prompting the NY Post to call Sitt “the Grinch Who Stole Coney Island.” News quickly spread that Thor CEO Joe Sitt was asking triple the rent for the 2009 season. Thor’s henchmen accompanied the uniformed security guards who cut off the locks and put up no trespassing signs. They told the shooting gallery operator and the souvenir stand guy next door, who were still open, that they were “trespassing” and threw them out. Commenters on the Coney Island USA message board referred to it as “Eviction, Sitt Style.”

New Year's Day 2009: No Trespassing Signs on Shoot Out the Star. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

New Year's Day 2009: No Trespassing Signs on Shoot Out the Star. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

Shoot out the Star managed to reopen this summer, but its future is precarious. The Thor Equities-owned Henderson Building occupies a lot that has been rezoned for a high rise hotel. The “Space for Lease” banner still looms over Stillwell, a symbol of Thor’s power over Coney Island. Over the summer, I had the opportunity to work a game a few blocks east on Jones Walk, which I like to call the midway of midways. Unlike the ever-changing traveling midways of my carny childhood, “the Walk” is a permanent part of the landscape, street sign and all. As someone who learned to call the people in working my parents’ games and later went on the road on my own, I have a deep attachment to the business. I worry about the future of independently operated games in the newly rezoned Coney Island.

Lettering on Thor Equities banner Dwarfs Shoot out the Star.  Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

Lettering on Thor Equities banner Dwarfs Shoot out the Star. January 1, 2009. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

When talk turns to acreage for rides and amusements, I doubt anyone gives a thought to the water race games and the shooting galleries except the owners and operators of those games. Will midway games get squeezed out by retail, restaurants and hotels, with an token arcade thrown in to say hey, we got hundreds of games?

The City recently closed on the property on the east side of Jones Walk in a deal that was first announced in October 2008. The Economic Development Corporation’s original press release says, “Under the terms of the purchase agreement, the Ward family, the oldest, continuous landowner in Coney Island, has agreed to have NYCEDC acquire roughly one acre of land for $11 million.” Now the City is the new landlord of the game booths on the east side of the midway of midways. Will the operators, many of whom have been part of Coney Island for decades, be grandfathered in? Or will the have to jump through the hoops of the City’s bureaucracy to remain in the new Coney Island?

100 Shots $2.00. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

100 Shots $2.00. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

Shoot out the Star, Stillwell at the Bowery, Coney Island
If you come to Coney Island for a Nathan’s hot dog, a stroll along the Boardwalk or to see the Parachute Jump–Brooklyn’s Eiffel Tower, please support independent amusements by playing the only game you’re likely to find open this time of year: Shoot out the Star

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