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Posts Tagged ‘Astrotower’

Hearing the Astrotower sing on a cold and windy day is one of the lost pleasures of a Coney Island winter. When the former amusement ride was demolished on July Fourth Weekend in 2013, we not only lost a Coney icon but also one of the world’s most unusual musical instruments.

In this video by Jay Singer, shot in March 2013, the mystical tower sings like an Aeolian harp. Commenters say “Magical. Ethereal.” and “Best soundtrack for a horror movie EVER.” Designed to be played by the wind, an Aeolian harp vibrates and produces an eerie sound.

A search on Youtube turns up a slew of videos of Aeolian instruments including composer Philip Blackburn‘s Wind Harps and Wind Flutes in St. Paul, Minnesota. The quirky environmental sound piece was funded by a $10,000 Artist Initiative Grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board. St. Paul is coincidentally one of the few places that still has an operating Von Roll Tower. The Minnesota State Fair’s Space Tower was installed in 1965, the year after Coney Island’s Astrotower.

Related posts on ATZ…

June 4, 2014: Astroland Rocket Finds New Home Beside the Wonder Wheel

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

July 3, 2013: Long Live Coney Island’s Swaying, Singing Astrotower!

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

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In 1970, a German tourist on his first trip to New York shot this Super 8 film in Coney Island. It offers a tantalizing glimpse of the Bowery’s original arcade architecture, since destroyed by fires, and the Playland Arcade on the Boardwalk, where Nathan’s is now. You’ll also see Astroland’s Skyride and Astrotower as well as Ward’s Fairyland Park-now Deno’s Kiddie Park. Only the Wonder Wheel, which is emblazoned with a banner saying “Our 50th Year,” and the Cyclone roller coaster, look the same today. Just wish the film was longer!

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September 22, 2012: Saturday Matinee: Coney Island’s Mite Mouse Coaster (1992)

August 27, 2012: Video of the Day: Raw Footage of 1960s Coney Island

March 10, 2011: Video: Seasons of the Cyclone Roller Coaster by Charles Denson

September 27, 2010: Video: The Museum of Wax by Charles Ludlam

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Stump of the Astrotower

The AstroStump, all that remains of the Astrotower, decorated for Halloween at Coney Island’s Luna Park. October 5, 2013

ATZ’s award for the creepiest, most inappropriate Halloween decoration goes to Luna Park for a bizarre attempt at paying homage to the demolished Astrotower. Formerly wrapped in a tarp, the AstroStump is all that remains of the tower, which is now bedecked with skeleton props as the centerpiece of a faux graveyard for the park’s Halloween celebration. Seeing the blackened, blow-torched edges of the chopped down icon for the first time was very unsettling. It’s like seeing the tortured corpse of a dear departed friend who would have been 50 years old next year. They got the date wrong on the tombstone–the tower debuted in 1964, not 1962.

What were they thinking? Well, the original All Hallows’ Eve provided one last chance for humans to propitiate the restless dead and for the dead to gain vengeance before moving to the next world. Not sure if dead landmarks have restless spirits, but the Astrotower was practically human since it used to sing. It’s been three months since the genuinely horrific July 4th Week when the 275-foot tower was cut apart with blowtorches in a marathon demolition following hysterical claims that it was swaying more than usual had closed most of Coney Island. The tower’s cut-down sections were carted off to the Cropsey Avenue junkyard while the stump was hidden from view by a tarp and fenced off like it had the plague.

The Remains of the Astrotower

The Astrostump is all that remains of the 275-foot Astrotower. July 7, 2013. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

Considering that not a trace remains of Astroland at the site of the former Astroland except this stump, it would have been more appropriate for Luna Park to put up a real plaque after the demolition. It’s distressing that a recollection of a tragic episode in Coney Island history, especially one that happened just three months ago, is reduced to a fake graveyard for Halloween.

However, not everyone agrees that this Halloween decoration is in bad taste. One Coney Island fan tweeted that the idea was “extremely clever.” Also in the faux graveyard are tombstones of long dead Coney luminaries such as Tilyou, Feltman, Handwerker and Mangels as well as a gravestone for Astroland Park. What do you think?

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Related posts on ATZ…

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

July 3, 2013: Long Live Coney Island’s Swaying, Singing Astrotower!

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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This weekend was the 5th anniversary of the closing of Coney Island’s Astroland. Founded in 1962, the park’s last day of operation was Sunday, September 7, 2008. Instead of showing photos of the park’s last day and night, we’ve gathered some videos of Astroland’s most popular rides in action.

“If you want to get off this ride at any time, raise your hand, we’ll set you free, y’all better hold on. Here we go, here we go, here here we go oh…,” says the operator of the Huss Breakdance at the beginning of the on-ride video made by TheDod3.com.

According to the website, which features ride reviews, photos and videos by a very knowledgeable ride enthusiast: “Most amusement parks in the US will run their Breakdance rides at a moderate speed, turning it into a ride good for everyone. Other Breakdance rides, such as damn near every single one in Europe and Astroland’s old Breakdance, are thrill rides through and through.”

Astroland’s Breakdance and Pirate Ship went to Costa Rica. The Topspin relocated to Seaside Heights, New Jersey, where it survived Sandy and has since been sold to Deggeller Attractions, a traveling carnival.

One of the Astroland Stars from the Surf Avenue gate is in the collection of the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum. The 8-foot by 7-and-a-half-foot lighted star will be in an exhibit next year.

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. There are rumors that the iconic Astroland Rocket will finally return to Coney Island as promised by City officials in 2009.

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September 5, 2013: It’s Time to Bring the Astroland Rocket Back to Coney Island

July 17, 2013: Astroland Rides Find Homes in Brooklyn, Costa Rica and Australia

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The Remains of the Astrotower

The Astrostump is all that remains of the 275-foot Astrotower. July 7, 2013. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

After the nightmarish July 4 Holiday Weekend demolition of the Swaying Tower of Coney Island, all that remains in Luna Park are a few feet, shown above, covered with tarp. It looks like a grave. The media appear to have lost interest in what they called “the iconic Astrotower” as soon as it was chopped down to about 90 feet, a third of its original size.

News reports that “Officials have not said yet whether the tower will be reassembled or if it’s gone for good” are ridiculous. The tower was not dismantled, bolt by bolt. It was cut apart with a blowtorch and the pieces were hauled off to the Cropsey Avenue scrapyard, where fans rushed to photograph it and salvage pieces as a souvenir.

Coney fans on social media are referring to what’s left of the tower in Coney Island as the Astrostump or the Lunastump. Some of our friends who live in nearby high rises and for whom the Astrotower was an intrinsic part of the skyline say something’s missing and they feel sad.

Astrotower

Local resident Rochelle Goldman, who live-tweeted the last hours of the demolition, posing with section of the Astrotower, July 5, 2013. Photo © Rochelle Goldman

It is more than sad. The Parachute Jump, sole survivor of Steeplechase, endured years of neglect and threats of demolition before being landmarked in 1988 and rehabbed in 2002. Astroland, Coney’s Island’s Space-Age theme park, opened in 1964, which was Steeplechase’s final season. For children of the late 60’s and the 1970’s and beyond, Astroland Park was Coney Island.

The tower was all that remained of Astroland in the new Coney Island and now it’s gone.

Astrotower

Astrotower, September 9, 2007. Photo © Adrian Kinloch via britinbrooklyn.net

This photo and the one below were snapped by photographer Adrian Kinloch on the last day of the 2007 season, when the observation tower last operated as a ride.

Astroland was built on the site of Feltman’s, the restaurant and amusement park complex owned by Charles Feltman, the inventor of the hot dog. When the Albert family decided to develop the park, Jerry Albert began making trips to the West Coast and Europe to seek out state-of-the-art rides. Designed and built by Willy Bühler Space Towers Company of Switzerland with cabins by Von Roll, the $1.7 million dollar Astrotower was the first of its kind in the U.S. when it was installed.

“Who Wants An Outlandish Astrotower? Who Wants A Big Bagel in the Sky?” said an editorial in the World Telegram and Sun when the Astrotower made its debut in 1964, according to the book “Coney Island and Astroland” by Charles Denson. “There’s only one place where anyone would dare to put up such a thing, and that’s Coney Island, that land of the frivolous, where gaiety and fun have reigned for years. We’re glad to see the old place hasn’t lost it’s zest for the bizarre.” R.I.P. Astrotower, 1964-2013.

Astrotower

Hungry March Band Play as they Ride Astrotower on Astroland’s Last Night of 2007 Season, September 9, 2007. Photo © Adrian Kinloch via britinbrooklyn.net

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July 3, 2013: Long Live Coney Island’s Swaying, Singing Astrotower!

March 16, 2012: Rest in Peace: Jerry Albert, Co-Founder of Coney Island’s Astroland Park

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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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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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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