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Posts Tagged ‘Astro Tower’

Astrotower Tattoo

Coney fan with new Astrotower Tattoo “Astroland 1962-2008 R.I.P” on the park’s last day, September 7, 2008. Photo © Tricia Vita via flickr

Update July 6, 2013, 9:41PM… RIP Astrotower! The sad and startling four-day, July 4th Holiday Week Demolition of the Astrotower  ended this morning with the last sections of the tower being chopped down and hauled off to the scrapyard on Cropsy Avenue. The base has been covered with tarp–it looks like a grave. Coney fans on social media are referring to what’s left of it as the Astrostump or the Lunastump.

ATZ’s updates from July 3 through 5 have been moved to the end of this post, which was written in the early morning hours of July 3, when we thought the swaying tower had been declared safe and the parks would open at noon the next day as usual. Luna Park sent out a tweet every hour overnight linking to this July 2 Facebook post which says “The NYC Buildings Department has announced that the Astrotower is stable and poses no immediate risk.”

For those of us who know and love the swaying, singing Astrotower, one of the last survivors of Astroland in Coney Island, yesterday’s news reports that the FDNY had rushed to the scene to monitor the stability of the tower was shocking. The Daily News described the Coney icon as the “Tower of Trepidation,” all because an alarmed tourist, unaware that the tower has always swayed, called 911. The amusement parks had to be closed and evacuated.

Late Tuesday night, Luna Park reassured Facebook fans that the Department of Buildings deemed the Astrotower stable. Whew! We hope that means the parks reopen today, the big Fourth of July celebration can go on as scheduled and the tower will finally get some TLC. And maybe a sign that says Swaying Tower of Coney Island?

Here’s magicalthemepark’s video of the swaying Astrotower back in May…

ATZ was skeptical from the get-go that the Astrotower was “unstable.” The tower has always swayed. “It all has to do with the angle of the wind. A very strong flow of wind at the right angle will cause it to sway,” Mark Blumenthal, former operations manager of Astroland told ATZ. “If it’s a high tide, it may help it.” He recalled an incident during Matt Kennedy’s 100th birthday party at Gargiulo’s in 2005 when he had to rush back to Astroland because the tower’s sway had caused police and firetrucks to converge on the scene. A former NYC Department of Buildings inspector was called in to do an engineering report and the tower passed muster.

In this video by Jay Singer, the mystical tower also sings like an Aeolian harp…

Ever since Luna Park was built on the Astroland site in April 2010, there’d been talk of Zamperla re-purposing the Tower as signage or possibly restoring it as a ride. Since nothing was done, the 270-foot observation tower got rusty and began to look like a neglected step-child amid the glittering new rides on the skyline.

Last September, after the Tower was relit for the first time since Astroland closed in 2008, Luna Park confirmed via their Facebook page that it “will provide Coney Island with a spectacular, night-time extravaganza,” but will not be reactivated as a ride.

Zamperla removed the gondola –which had given the Astrotower its nickname the “Bagel in the Sky”– and counter weights from the tower in March, after getting a permit to do so last summer. The lighting of the Astrotower with LEDs, similar to what was done with the Parachute Jump, has been planned for next season.

This fabulous on-ride video by amusement ride site The DoD3 shows the Astrotower in operation in 2007, which was its last season.

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.” During the rezoning hearings, the Municipal Art Society and Save Coney Island said the structure was eligible for the State and National Registers.

Update: July 3, 2013, 5:00PM… At a press conference this afternoon, Luna Park officials announced that the Astrotower would be torn down, according to NY1 News. The more prominent sway of the tower was attributed to the removal of parts of the structure. As ATZ reported, Zamperla removed the gondola –which had given the Astrotower its nickname the “Bagel in the Sky”– and counter weights from the tower in March, after getting a permit to do so last summer. This was obviously a big mistake as anyone who worked for Astroland will tell you the cab, which weighed 10 tons, was always parked mid-tower to stabilize it.

Buildings Department Commissioner Robert LiMandri was quoted on NY1 on July 3rd: It is not unusual for the tower to move a bit, but the Buildings Department determined the amount of sway to be too much in low wind to be able to say for sure that it would not collapse. The city said that contractors working for Luna Park removed elevator machinery late in the winter, and they said that has now increased the sway of the Astrotower, making it unsafe.“Part of that work was to actually remove some of the structure from the elevator that the Astrotower was,” said Buildings Department Commissioner Robert LiMandri. “When you do that, you decrease the weight at the top, and so therefore, you would get additional sway. At no time did any of those contractors or engineers identify that that would be a problem, and they went forward and did that.”

Sources in Coney Island tell ATZ a “compromise plan” has been reached to take off the top of the tower overnight. It will be death by decapitation for the Astrotower (a terrible thing) so that the parks and businesses east of 12th Street, which were closed and evacuated, will be able to open on the Fourth of July (a good thing). Somebody please wake us up from this nightmare.

Update: July 4, 2013, 3:11PM… The top of the Astrotower was removed, a more than 12-hour operation that enabled Luna Park, the Cyclone, Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park and concessions in the immediate area to reopen at 3 PM on the 4th of July. That night, the businesses, which would ordinarily stay open till 2AM on Fourth of July were ordered to close at 12:30 AM so that the demolition could continue.

Update: July 5, 2013, 8:45PM… Overnight and in the morning, demolition work on the Astrotower continued. By the time work stopped around 1:30PM, the tower had been cut down to 1/3 of its original height, which was 275 feet. The work is expected to continue tonight after the park closes for business.

Update: July 5, 2013, 8:45PM… Overnight and in the morning, demolition work on the Astrotower continued. By the time work stopped around 1:30PM, the tower had been cut down to 1/3 of its original height, which was 275 feet. The work is expected to continue tonight after the park closes for business.

Update: July 7, 2013. All that remains of the tower is the AstroStump also known as the LunaStump.

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Related posts on ATZ…

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

March 11, 2013: Luna Park’s Pinwheels Go Up on Coney Island Boardwalk

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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Luna Park Boardwalk Gate

Luna Park Boardwalk Gate Under Construction. March 10, 2013. Photo © Bruce Handy via Coney Island Photo Diary

On Sunday afternoon, Coney Island photographer Bruce Handy captured this gorgeous image of the last pinwheel and crescent moon of Luna Park’s new Boardwalk gate being lifted into place. The gate takes its inspiration from the one on Surf Avenue, which was built three years ago and pays homage to the original Luna Park’s 1903 gate. The smaller, more delicate boardwalk entryway boasts the additional flourish of golden pennants and promises a brighter, more dazzling summer in Coney Island.

Do you notice anything else different in the photo below?

Luna Park Boardwalk Gate

Luna Park Boardwalk Gate Under Construction. March 10, 2013. Photo © Bruce Handy via Coney Island Photo Diary

The cars will be put back up on Deno’s Wonder Wheel in plenty of time for March 24th’s Opening Day — the cars are taken down during the off-season for maintenance. What’s different in the photo is the appearance of the Astro Tower. Earlier this month, the cab was removed from the Tower, which has been standing but not operating since 2008. Word on the Boardwalk is the former ride will be painted and illuminated. Ever since Luna Park was built on the Astroland site in April 2010, there’s been talk of Zamperla re-purposing the Tower as signage or possibly restoring it as a ride. Since nothing was done, the 270-foot observation tower got rusty and began to look like a neglected orphan amid the glittering new rides on the skyline. Last September, after the Tower was relit for the first time since Astroland closed, Luna Park confirmed via their Facebook page that it “will provide Coney Island with a spectacular, night-time extravaganza,” but will not be reactivated as a ride.

UPDATE 3:00 pm

We’d heard rumors that the Astro Tower’s cab, also known as “The Bagel in Sky,” had been damaged by Sandy. Luna Park just emailed us the following update: “Coney Island’s Astrotower suffered structural damage during Super Storm Sandy. The restoration process of the Tower is underway, with affected parts, including the gondola, having been removed to ensure its stability and safety. Part of the tower’s rehabilitation will include a new, energy-efficient lighting package that will be programmable to match other lighting installations at Luna Park.”

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Related posts on ATZ…

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

July 8, 2012: Video of the Day: Coney Island Lights by Jim McDonnell

May 23, 2010: Luna Park Coney Island’s Pinwheel & Moon Gate Takes Shape!

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

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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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Related posts on ATZ…

July 8, 2012: Video of the Day: Coney Island Lights by Jim McDonnell

May 29, 2012: Photo Album: Coney Island Lights & Signs of the Times

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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