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Archive for September, 2012

Miss Coney Island

The Dancing Doll Miss Coney Island. August 28, 2012. Photo © me-myself-i/Tricia Vita via flickr

If you haven’t danced with Miss Coney Island yet, there are only a few weeks left before our friend goes to winter-quarters. On weekends, you’ll find her standing behind a window on West 12th Street across from the Steeplechase coaster. It costs “25 cents to fall in LOVE” and “25 cents to smile,” say the signs, but quarters don’t pay the rent in Coney Island. The dancing doll depends on income from Skin the Wire and neighboring games of skill to get by. Bring a whole roll of quarters with you!

Miss Coney Island

The Dancing Doll Miss Coney Island. August 28, 2012. Photo © me-myself-i/Tricia Vita via flickr

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April 27, 2012: The Dancing Doll “Miss Coney Island” Speaks

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July 14, 2009: Miss Coney Island on Jones Walk: 25 Cents to Fall in Love

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Astrotower Luna Park Gate

Illuminated Astrotower and Luna Park Gate, Coney Island. September 27, 2012. Photo © Bruce Handy

Last night, Coney Island photographer Bruce Handy was surprised to see a sight that hasn’t been seen since Astroland Park closed forever on September 7, 2008. The Astrotower, which has been standing but not operating since before the park closed, was illuminated. It makes us happy to see it lit! Bruce speculates that Luna Park technicians were testing the electrical hookup for future lighting of the tower. We wonder if they will light it for the park’s Halloween Horror Nights, which begin in mid-October. In the close-up shot below you can see they are using the bare bulbs that originally lit the tower and have not installed LEDs. Why has it taken so long?

Astrotower

Closeup of illuminated Astrotower. September 27, 2012. Photo © Bruce Handy

Ever since Luna Park was built on the former Astroland site in April 2010, there’s been talk of Zamperla repurposing the tower as signage or possibly restoring it as a ride. Since nothing was done, the 270-foot observation tower got rusty and started to look like a neglected stepchild amid the glittering new rides on the skyline. Earlier this month, when a similar tower at Cedar Point was imploded, a fan on Luna Park’s Facebook page asked if the Astrotower would have the same fate. The answer was reassuring: “The Astrotower is going to stay up for posterity,” according to an official post on Luna Park’s Facebook. “It’s an historic ride. Luna Park will re-paint the ride, but it will no longer take guests up to give them views of Coney Island.”

According to the Coney Island History Project, the $1.7 million Astrotower was manufactured by the Swiss company Von Roll and installed in 1964. “It required a foundation of 1,100 tons of concrete and 13 tons of steel reinforcing bars. Like Astroland’s other space-age themed rides, the tower was built specifically for the park.” The Municipal Art Society and Save Coney Island have said the structure is eligible for the State and National Registers. We’d love to be able to ride the Astrotower once again. If that’s not in the stars, let’s hope it will be refurbished and illuminated like Steeplechase Park survivor the Parachute Jump.

UPDATE September 29, 2012

This evening, Luna Park confirmed on their Facebook page that the tower will be illuminated, but not reactivated as a ride. “Our electricians are testing the lighting system as we finalize plans to paint and rewire parts of the tower. The Astrotower will not operate as a ride – instead it will provide Coney Island with a spectacular, night-time extravaganza. Look to the Coney Island skies for some exciting new developments in 2013…”

It’s great news that the once proud and now forlorn looking tower will be a bright spot on the skyline of the new Coney Island. The painted and illuminated Astrotower will compliment the bling-y lights promised for the Parachute Jump in Steeplechase Plaza, which is set to open next season.

At the same time, we’re not buying the statement that “The Astrotower will not operate as a ride.” Perhaps it should be qualified with the two words “in 2013”? It’s hard to believe that Zamperla, one of the world’s largest ride manufacturers, can’t come up with a plan to reactivate the tower as a ride. Is it a matter of money or current priorities? In 2014, the tower will be 50 years old. The only question is when the Luna Park Astrotower opens, will the Zamperlas be serving bagels and lox as Jerry Albert did when the ride known as the bagel in the sky because of its circular car debuted in Astroland?

Astrotower

Astrotower and landmark Wonder Wheel, Coney Island. September 27, 2012. Photo © Bruce Handy

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Terminal Hotel, Mermaid Ave and Stillwell Ave, Coney Island. May 26, 2011. Photo © Bruce Handy/Pablo 57 via flickr

An Unexpected Encounter

I went to Moe’s Used Books
in Coney Island to look for
The Joys of Yinglish,
long out of print
and even though
it was the last week in September
the temperature hovered
in the mid 80s
and Moe’s store lacked an air-conditioner
because all his meager profits
would have been eaten up
by the cost of electricity. Soon I was
sweating and barely able
to breathe
my throat tight and swollen
so I needed
a cool liquid quickly
and plodded along Surf Avenue
to Corn Queen
and ordered a large root beer
but in this particular establishment
they don’t give you an item
until the money has been
deposited in their cash register.
I pulled out a fifty
all I had with me
placed it on the counter
and reached for the root beer
but the guy grabbed the cup
pointing to a sign on the wall:
no bills larger than $20 accepted.
For some reason I blurted out,
“Turn on the air-conditioner,
why don’t you?
It’s like the equator in here.”
He simply smiled.
“Look, I been coming in here
for twenty years.
Lemme drink,
then I’ll get change.”
He shook his head.
“Where’s the owner, Two Ton Tony?
He knows me.”
“Deceased, ” he said.
When I heard that
my knees buckled
and I clutched the counter. Suddenly
a woman appeared
placing a dollar bill on the counter.
“For the big man,” she said.
I immediately snatched
the soda
gulping it down,
then I turned to her
saying, “Thanks.”
She was a prostitute.
The outfit
plus make-up
gave her away
and one word led to another
and soon we were
in room 11 of the Terminal Hotel.
The dear woman
accepted
bills
larger than a twenty.

10/25/2005. Copyright © Charles Chaim Wax
via poemhunter.com

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