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Posts Tagged ‘Carol Hill-Albert’

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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Jerry Albert Astroland

Jerry Albert (center) with Astrotower manager and welder, sliding Astrocule time capsule into the tower foundation. Photo from Coney Island and Astroland by Charles Denson. All Rights Reserved

Coney Island lost an historical figure who helped transform one of the amusement area’s oldest properties into a space age theme park in the 1960s. Jerry Albert, the co-founder of Astroland Park with his father Dewey Albert, died on Thursday after a long battle with Parkinson’s disease. This year is the 50th anniversary of the founding of Astroland, which broke ground in 1962 and closed at the end of the 2008 season.

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. The new park started with little more than a miniature golf course, a Double Diving Bell, a Sky Ride, and six kiddie rides. When the Alberts decided to develop the park, Jerry Albert began making trips to the West Coast and Europe to seek out state-of-the-art rides.

“The Mercury Capsule Skyride,” “The Ascension Tower,” and “The Rocket Ship Star Flyer” were among the space-age rides mentioned in an early press release about Coney Island’s new park. Neptune’s Water Flume was one of the early flumes made by Arrow Development, a pioneering ride builder for Disney, in the early 1960s right after the New York World’s Fair, and it was built specifically for this park. The $1.7 million Von Roll Astrotower from Switzerland was the first ride of its kind in the United States when it was installed in 1963.

In the historic photo above from Charles Denson’s Coney Island and Astroland, Jerry Albert (center) pictured with Astrotower manager Charlie Bower and welder Joe Peluso, slides the Astrocule time capsule into the tower foundation. “The press nicknamed it the ‘Bagel in the Sky’ or ‘Flying Bagel,'” writes Denson in the book. “Jerry Albert embraced the name, serving bagels and lox at the tower’s opening, as his mother cracked a bottle of champagne on its base. When the tower opened in July 1964, the conversion of Feltman’s into Astroland was complete.”

Jerry Albert took over the operation of Astroland Park after Dewey Albert’s death in 1992, notes Denson. After he retired due to the onset of Parkinson’s, his wife Carol Hill Albert operated the park until it closed. In 2004, the Coney Island History Project, a nonprofit that aims to increase awareness of Coney’s legendary and colorful past, was founded by Carol Hill Albert and Jerry Albert in honor of Dewey Albert.

In 1987, on the 25th anniversary of Astroland, the New York Post hailed the Alberts as “the family that keeps Coney Island rolling,” adding that while so much of Coney Island had burned down or was in decay, the Alberts kept the Cyclone running and kept expanding the park. By way of explanation, Jerry Albert told the reporter, “We have sand in our shoes.” Spoken by those who have an intimate working connection with Coney Island, the phrase conveys an unwavering commitment to this place where the amusement industry was born.

Funeral services will be held at 11 am 10 am Sunday at Plaza Jewish Community Chapel, 630 Amsterdam Ave at 91st Street in Manhattan, to be followed by interment at Mt. Lebanon Cemetery.

In lieu of flowers donations may be sent to the American Parkinson Association, 135 Parkinson Ave. Staten Island, New York 10305

UPDATE March 17, 2012:

More tributes…

“In Memorium: Jerry Albert, Co-Founder of Astroland Park” by Charles Denson, Coney Island History Project

“Jerome Albert, Who Helped Bring Space Age to Coney Island, Dies at 74” by Dennis Hevesi, New York Times

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