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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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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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MIB3

Men in Black 3 Set on Coney Island Boardwalk. Photo © Diana Taft Shumate

Coney Island is ready for its close-up in Men in Black 3! Retro-looking booths and signage started going up last Monday on the beach side of the Boardwalk from 12th Street to Stillwell Avenue. Madame Zava Phrenology, Balloon Dart, Water Race, Cotton Candy, and a Souvenir Stand topped by a mini Astroland Rocket delighted visitors over the weekend. Thanks to Coney Island photographer Diana Taft Shumate for this set of photos. Filming begins on the Boardwalk on Monday morning, May 2, and continues through May 5 at other Coney locations, including the Bowery on Wednesday.

MIB3 Set

THe Fortune Teller: Men in Black 3 Set on Coney Island Boardwalk. Photo © Diana Taft Shumate

Men In Black 3 stars Will Smith as Agent J traveling back in time to 1969 to stop a villain from killing a young Agent K played by Josh Brolin. According to the storyline, if the killing were carried out in the past, it would result in the destruction of Earth in the present. As ATZ reported in “Men in Black 3 Rescues Coney Island’s Oldest Building” (ATZ, April 10) the production company leased Coney Island’s oldest building, the long vacant Grashorn, from Thor Equities and rescued it from oblivion. They fixed up the gutted interior of the building located at Surf and Jones Walk to use as their location headquarters.

Rocket

The Rocket: Men in Black 3 Set on Coney Island Boardwalk. Photo © Diana Taft Shumate

Our favorite part of the Boardwalk set is this darling little Rocket. Was it inspired by the Astroland Rocket, which was perched atop the roof of Gregory & Paul’s Boardwalk eatery until two years ago? The Rocket came to Coney Island’s Astroland Park in 1962 as one of the first of the imaginary space voyage simulators constructed during the Space Race. What role will the imaginary Coney Island of Men in Black 3 play in saving the Earth from destruction? We’ll find out when the film premieres next May!

MIB3

Cotton Candy: Men in Black 3 Set on Coney Island Boardwalk. Photo © Diana Taft Shumate

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April 2, 2011: Coney Island 2011: Free Movie Screenings on the Beach

April 10, 2011: Men in Black 3 Rescues Coney Island’s Oldest Building

January 27, 2011: Video: Coney Island: Secrets of the Universe by Charles Denson

September 20, 2010: Movie Monday: Teaser Trailers from the Coney Island Film Festival

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After we posted the new vid shot in Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park by the UK’s #1 boy band The Wanted, a reader sent us a link to this blast from the past from another boy band filmed in Coney Island. “I came across a pop video from the ’90s that you might enjoy. The song is pure cheese, but it might be the last music video ever filmed at Astroland,” said the reader.

We did enjoy it. The 1999 tune “Summer Girls” by LFO (Lyte Funkie Ones) takes us back to happier days on the Boardwalk, when the Astroland Rocket was perched atop Gregory & Paul’s roof and provided the backdrop for LFO’s teenage exuberance. This top 10 hit of the summer sold over 1.5 million copies in the U.S.

The lyrics are nonsensical fun: “New Kids On The Block, had a bunch of hits/Chinese food makes me sick/And I think it’s fly when girls stop by for the summer,for the summer/I like girls that wear Abercrombie and Fitch/I’d take her if I had one wish/But she’s been gone since that summer/Since that summer…”

As one commenter said on YouTube: “I heard that he was joking when he wrote these lyrics but somebody liked it and they just ran with it. As somebody who hated it when it first came out, I love it now. It’s different, it’s fresh.”

Where are they now?

In 2009, after a brief reunion, the pop/rap trio announced “LFO is Over” via YouTube. Sadly, the lead singer Rich Cronin, who wrote “Summer Girls,” died of leukemia in September 2010.

What happened to the Rocket?

After Astroland lost its lease in 2009, the Rocket was removed from G & P’s roof and donated to the City of New York by the Albert family. “The Rocket will become a permanent and iconic part of the 27 acre redeveloped amusement district in Coney Island,” according to the press release from the Coney Island Development Corporation. The Rocket is in storage at an NYCEDC facility in Staten Island.

The iconic signage of Gregory & Paul’s, which is featured in the vid, is another soon-to-vanish piece of Coney Island Americana. Now called Paul’s Daughter, the 41-year-old eatery is being evicted from the Boardwalk to make way for the new Coney Island. Its location is slated to be taken over by a concession run by corporate giant Sodexo, Luna Park’s partner for “On-Site Service Solutions.”

Enjoy the trip back in time to the real Coney Island!

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March 15, 2011: Hail, Hail Garland Jeffreys! Coney Island Has a New Anthem

December 7, 2010: New Music Video: Little Silver’s Where We Met

November 30, 2010: Video: The Wanted’s Lose My Mind at Coney Island’s Wonder Wheel Park

July 19, 2009: Coney Island Hip-Hop Anthem: AMO1’s Fight for Your Right to Save Coney

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Window to Coney Island. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

Window to Coney Island. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

ATZ spotted these classic images of the Astroland Rocket atop Gregory & Paul’s roof and the Cyclone roller coaster in a shop window on Sixth Avenue at 12th in Greenwich Village. As we framed our shot, a couple walked by and the man sang out “Astroland!” We sang back: “Coney Island opens for the season on March 28th!” The gallery owner says he sells five or six of the canvas prints per month. The original photos are by Erin Clark.

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January 2, 2010: Photo Album: Coney Island Boardwalk, New Year’s Day 2010

December 20, 2009: Coney Island Photo of the Day: First Snow on the Cyclone

June 26, 2009: Happy Birthday to Coney Island’s Cyclone Roller Coaster!

June 2, 2009: Coney Island is Alive and Kicking in 2009 Photo of the Day: Dusk on the Boardwalk

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If you think “Ciao” means only hello or goodbye, we have news for you:  In NYCEDC (New York Economic Development Corporation) acronymese, CIAO stands for Coney Island Amusement Operator in the RFP (Request for Proposals) for a 10 year lease of the City’s newly purchased 6.9 acres in the People’s Playground. Today is the deadline for responses to the RFP and we’re set to be thrilled by the zillion dollar ride line up of the decade! Our guess is the successful bidder will be a team that not only has experience in park operations but also includes a top carnival  and a ride manufacturer with coaster creds.  Oh, and did we mention access to capital? But don’t expect to find out who gets to put in Coney Island’s interim midway–it’s the equivalent of a mega state fair contract– until early 2010.

In the meantime, ATZ took a look at some of the questions potential CIAO’s have asked about the RFP and Coney Island in general, and the NYCEDC’s replies, for clues to the future. Will the oldies but goodies in the City owned Boardwalk properties like Ruby’s, Cha Cha’s, Shoot the Freak and the historic Astrotower get a new 10 year lease on life? Or will it be out with the old, in with the new starting in 2011?

View from Cha Chas

Coney Island, View from Cha Cha's Rooftop on Siren Day 2008. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

Free Rent In Coney Island?!

The full set of Q & A’s posted on the RFP site covered necessary stuff like electrical power to the sites, restrooms, lighting, fencing, security and rubbish removal, all of which the CIAO is expected to provide in addition to the rides and attractions. The site turnover date is April 15, 2010, leaving the operator only 6 weeks till Memorial Day to install everything and obtain the necessary permits and inspections. In 2010, the City will spend $2.2 million out of a total of $6.6 million in public funds on site improvements. What about the rent?

Q:  In the RFP, you mentioned terms including “free rent” and percentages.  Can you explain what is meant by these terms?

A:  Given the compressed timeline and the intermediate lease term offered, NYCEDC intends to be as flexible as possible in accommodating the needs of the operator.  Therefore, a variety of rent schedules and structures, which may or may not include percentage rent, base rent or free rent, will be considered.

Lotsa Interest in the Boardwalk Businesses

More revealing about the shape of things to come in Coney are the Q & A’s about the Boardwalk businesses, the Astrotower, and even the Astroland Rocket.

Q: What businesses are located on the Boardwalk? Do you have contact information?

A: The businesses currently located on the Boardwalk within the boundaries of Parcels A, B, and C are, from East to West: Paul’s Daughter, Pio Pio Rico, Gyro Corner, Coney Island Souvenirs, Ruby’s Bar and Grill, Shoot the Freak, Cha-Cha’s, Nathan’s Famous, Beer Island. Additional information for businesses in Coney Island can be found at www.coneyislandfunguide.com.

Ruby's Bar & Grill

Ruby's Bar & Grill, Coney Island. Photo © Bruce Handy/Pablo 57 via flickr

The City has already offered one year leases for 2010 to the mom-and-pop businesses occupying the Boardwalk property formerly owned by Thor Equities. Lola Staar Boutique, which was evicted by Thor, was asked to return as well. But will they be back in 2011? It’s clear from the Q & A’s that some of the potential CIAO’s are very interested in the revenue generating potential of the bars and the Boardwalk property. It would be a sorry day if Coney Island mainstays Ruby’s, Cha Cha’s, Shoot the Freak and the other small businesses are “pratted out” (as we say in the carnival biz) after having survived the dark days of Thor.

Before the RFP release, Shoot the Freak’s Anthony Berlingieri made headlines when he appeared at the City’s press conference on the land buy and posed the question directly to Mayor Bloomberg: “Is there a place for us?” NYCEDC President Seth Pinsky gave a diplomatic reply: “Our intention is for the foreseeable future to keep all the tenants in place, certainly through next summer. And we’re going to be looking to work with each of you to figure out where it makes sense for the various tenants to remain as we build out the amusement park.”

More from the Coney Island RFP Q & A’s related to Boardwalk Businesses

Q: What is going to happen with the Boardwalk tenants in both the short term and throughout the lease period? Can responses to the RFP include those businesses and the space along the boardwalk?

A: For Year 1 of operations (the Summer 2010 season), NYCEDC intends to enter into one-year licenses directly with the Boardwalk businesses. Beginning in Year 2 of operations, Respondents may propose to include or exclude these businesses and structures from their proposals.

Q: What is the current rent from these tenants?

A: While we cannot share information on individual licenses at this time, we can report that in the past, the gross potential rent for the Boardwalk tenants was approximately $750,000 to $900,000.

Shoot the Freak

Shoot the Freak on Fourth of July. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

Q: Do the Boardwalk tenants have liquor licenses? Do these remain with the tenant or the structure?

A: Several of the businesses on the Boardwalk maintain liquor licenses with the New York State Liquor Authority (“SLA”). Most of the active licenses are seasonal (for a term of seven months) and are renewed annually. The process for the “transfer” of a license at an existing premises to a new business as well as other details regarding liquor licenses is available at the website of the SLA: http://www.abc.state.ny.us.

Q: Can the Boardwalk businesses make use of the Boardwalk?

A: Yes, businesses are generally permitted to occupy approximately 20 feet of the Boardwalk in front of the business premises with tables and chairs. Such use of the Boardwalk requires approval by and an annual fee paid to the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation.

According to the Coney Island RFP, “Responses to this RFP should articulate whether they include or exclude these structures or footprints, beginning at the earliest in Year 2 of operations.”  But it also says “The Selected Respondent may propose to include subtenants for portions of their proposed operations, but such subtenants, and such subtenant agreements, shall be subject to NYCEDC approval.”  In other words, the City, which owns the property, has final say over which businesses come or go.

While the RFP encourages a plan for Minority/Women Business Enterprises (M/WBE) and local hiring, there’s no mention of protection for small businesses in general. In fact, the buildings could be demolished and the tenants displaced. Will the Boardwalk end up looking like the rest of New York City–out with the mom and pops, in with the formula businesses and chain restaurants? We hope not. But the Bloomberg adminstration’s opposition to Councilman Jackson’s proposed Small Business Survival Act, which has enough support to pass in the City Council, does not make us feel optimistic.

Astrotower. Photo © Bruce Handy/Pablo 57 via flickr

Astrotower. Photo © Bruce Handy/Pablo 57 via flickr

Astrotower

Despite the closing of Astroland and the fact that the Astrotower hasn’t operated as a ride for two years, Bruce Handy‘s photo gives us a hopeful feeling. We can imagine buds and then leaves on the tree and the Tower still standing tall. The Municipal Art Society and Save Coney Island say the structure is eligible for the State and National Registers. We hope the Astrotower will be a survivor like Steeplechase’s Parachute Jump.

Q: What are the future plans for the Astrotower? Could the operator choose to reactivate the Astrotower? Could the operator choose to remove the Astrotower from the site?

A: Respondents should include in their proposal how they will address the Astrotower. Reactivating the tower or removing it are both among the potential options.

Q: Do you have any drawings of the Astrotower? Can NYCEDC provide dimensions? Can NYCEDC provide the name of the manufacturer?

A. It is our understanding that the Astrotower was manufactured by the Swiss company Von Roll and installed in 1964. Von Roll was purchased by Doppelmayr Garaventa Group (www.doppelmayrctec.com) in 1996. The tower is approximately 260’ high.

Astroland Rocket

Jan 28, 2009 - Astroland Rocket in Aquarium Parking Lot ready to Go to Homeport Storage facility in Staten Island. Photo © Tricia Vita/Coney Island History Project

Astroland Rocket

When we look at this photo of the Rocket with the Cyclone, Tower and Wonder Wheel in the background, we can just imagine how wonderful it will be when the Rocket rejoins these landmarks in the new Coney Island. We hope the Tower will be there too!

Q: The City saved the Astroland Rocket last year. Will it return as a part of the new amusement park?

A: The City of New York accepted a donation in January 2009 of the Astroland Rocket, a 71-foot long 12,000 pound rocket ship flight simulator that was among the original rides at Astroland when the park opened in the 1960s. The Rocket is currently in an NYCEDC storage facility. NYCEDC anticipates discussing potential locations for the Rocket with the Selected Respondent following designation, although Respondents are welcome to propose a use for the Rocket in their proposals if they so choose.

The potential CIAO’s also had questions about adjacent property, asking for contact information  for “the owner of the lot immediately to the East of Keyspan Park” (Horace Bullard) and the “owner of the lots immediately north of Parcels B and C, south of the Bowery” (Thor Equities). If we’re lucky, the spillover of applicants for the RFP will fill Sitt’s and Bullard’s empty lots with amusements this summer.

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November 25, 2009: Photo Album: Coney Island Shines at IAAPA Attractions Expo 2009 in Vegas

November 23, 2009: The Contenders from A to Z: Coney Island Amusement Operator RFP

May 29, 2009: At Cha-Cha’s of Coney Island, Squidling Rhymes with Ringling

May 17, 2009: Joe Sitt’s No Show Rides

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astroland-park (3)
Astroland Park, Watercolor by Eric March. From the exhibition “Moments in Time: Queens to Coney Island” at Park Slope Gallery, October 16 – December 31.

The roof of Gregory & Paul’s, now known as Paul’s Daughter, looked empty this summer without the iconic Astroland Rocket. I kept having to remind myself: The Rocket is safe in storage in Staten Island. It’s been saved! But things were not the same in so many ways: Astroland was gone. Closed on September 7, 2008. In Eric March‘s achingly lovely watercolor study from the summer of 2008, G & P’s original sign is intact, the “Astroland Park” Rocket is perched atop the Boardwalk food stand, and all is well in this part of the world.

The artist, whom ATZ got acquainted with in Coney, recently sent us a link to a preview of his upcoming exhibition “Moments in Time: Queens to Coney Island.” The oil paintings and charcoal drawings of Queens industrial landscape are impressive. Naturally we felt drawn to successive images of the Rocket– the black & white and hand-tinted etchings done in 2009. “For ‘Astroland’ I thought the fine detail you can achieve in etching lent itself well to depicting all the signage,” says Eric March. “‘Parachute Jump’ has a lot of precise line work but I also used different biting techniques to get a softer sense of atmosphere in the sky. In addition, an additional layer of yellow ink rolled over the entire plate helps gives ‘Parachute Jump’ that sunset glow.”

astroland-bw (2)
Astroland, etching by Eric March, 2009

Whenever I ran into Eric in Coney Island he was busy gathering signatures for a petition to save the amusement zoning and move the proposed high rises north of Surf Avenue. How did all the Save Coney lobbying and events of the summer affect or inspire his work?

The show is actually about half Coney Island subjects and half Long Island City subjects. I moved to LIC in 2006 from Brooklyn and was attracted to all the industrial structures in Queens Plaza and other places in LIC. Coney Island has my heart, though, and I was drawn back to the beach when I started developing the work for this show. In 2006 I had my first solo show, “A Brooklyn Year”, which was all Brooklyn—including a lot of Coney Island pieces. So I already had ideas for paintings that I didn’t get to for my last show.

When I learned that Coney Island was potentially destined for the wrecking ball it definitely lit a fire under me to not only capture images of the Coney that I knew and loved, but also to get involved politically to help keep it that way. That’s when I started volunteering for Save Coney Island. I did some petitioning on the boardwalk and helped organize to raise awareness about the city’s redevelopment plan and it’s inherent threat to the existence of the vibrant, small scale, historic, and unique Coney Island that’s been drawing people there for over 100 years. The fight’s not over yet and I hope that when people see the work in this show they will also be inspired to fight for a Coney Island that remains one of the last places in New York City that is an open-access melting pot of people, creativity, color, and fun.

astroland-hc (2)
Astroland, hand-tinted etching by Eric March, 2009

parachute-jump (2)

Gallery Talk, Friday, November 6, 7 pm
The artist will discuss the artistic process and the political inspiration for his Coney Island images. Featuring guest speaker Juan Rivero from Save Coney Island

Moments in Time: Queens to Coney Island, October 16- December 31, 2009. Park Slope Gallery is a by-appointment-only art gallery in the historic Park Slope section of Brooklyn. Phone 718-768-4883 or e-mail parkslopegallery@mindspring.com

Parachute Jump, etching by Eric March, 2009

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