Thor has repeatedly said they want to "turn Coney Island back into an entertainment capitol" and they've sent around some very slick-looking press releases with imaginative and colorful concept art, but that's all they have -- concept art. And a price tag for their project that gets bigger and bigger every time they blow some more smoke.
Meanwhile, they're trying to buy up as much property as they can and get the city to rezone it for residential use. What good's an entertainment area if it's not zoned for high-rise condos, right?
No, I don't believe a word Thor Equities has said. I have no faith in their claims. I don't believe they wish to keep the amusements in Coney Island. Not when they claim their development will contain "the first roller coaster built in Coney Island since the Cyclone." (Hello, Jumbo Jet?) Not when their concept art is just that -- conceptual. And not when they're actively pursuing a giant mall/condo complex. Revitalizing a depressed area is one thing (and let's face it, Coney Island deserves all the revitalization it can get, especially year-round stuff) but not when it's one developer calling all the shots and buying up all the land.
Yes, all the land. Today I learned of a big purchase they just made. Thor Equities is finishing the job that Robert Moses started over 40 years ago and Fred Trump, Donald's father, tried to finish as well.
They're finally killing Coney Island.
Cyclone saved, but beloved Astroland will close
The vintage Astroland Amusement Park, one of the anchors of Coney Island since its 1962 opening, was purchased Tuesday by a developer intent on restoring the Brooklyn beachfront as a $1.5 billion year-round resort.
The Albert family, owners of the well-known park, will close the 3.1-acre attraction at the end of the 2007 summer season under the deal reached with Thor Equities. The Alberts will continue to operate the landmark Cyclone roller-coaster, which turns 80 next year, under an existing agreement with the city.
The decision to sell was "very difficult and made only after months of extensive discussion," said Carol Hill Albert, co-owner of Astroland with husband Jerome. The park was launched by her late father-in-law, Dewey Albert.
In the end, the cost of converting Astroland to a year-round operation was too steep. The family had turned down larger bids last year "in the hope of finding an alternative that would enable us to keep our current location," Albert said — but it didn't pan out.
Thor Equities plans a $1.5 billion, year-round facility in Coney Island. Although no price was given for the Astroland purchase, Thor had already spent $100 million snapping up properties along the venerable boardwalk.
Thor's plans include a mix of amusements and attractions, including a new roller coaster and a new hotel to accommodate the anticipated arrival of new tourists.
The site of the amusement park is renowned for another reason. Local legend has it that restaurateur Charles Feltman invented the hot dog there in 1874.
The Alberts, although they sold their property to Thor, retained ownership of attractions like the water flume and the Astrotower in hopes of adding some new rides and relocating to another section of the neighborhood.
The amusement park employs about 300 workers every summer, and Albert was hopeful that city and Brooklyn officials could help with relocation costs.
"The Albert family is proud to have provided so many wonderful memories for so many generations and to have been such an important part of New York's world famous Coney Island," Albert said.
No word yet on Deno's Wonder Wheel Park, but with its boardwalk location between Astroland and the other pieces of land Thor has bought, it's pretty clear they'll stand in the way of this development. They could go at any time. We don't know.
Why couldn't Thor's development have included Astroland and Deno's? You know, for the "amusements"? Why not use the deserted land between Deno's and Keyspan Park (a lot of which Thor has bought up already) and leave the amusements where they are? Isn't that the point of having amusements?
Oh, because Astroland stands in the way of Thor's idea of having a resort/condo complex connected with the New York Aquarium. Well, so does the Cyclone, in that case. And when one domino falls and nobody says boo...
I'm sorry. I can't think of this development in any positive terms whatsoever. Coney Island will become like Myrtle Beach; full of beachfront high-rise condos and indoor shopping malls with maybe like a portable coaster thrown in to "re-create the feeling" of how fun things used to be, without being fun themselves.
I'm just glad poor Steve Urbanowicz, one of the true hearts of Coney Island, isn't around to see this.