It's just this little chromium switch, here... (derspatchel) wrote,
It's just this little chromium switch, here...

Astroland 1962 - 2008

Yesterday was the last day of operations at Coney Island's Astroland. Carol Albert, the owner of the park, made a sudden announcement on Friday that the park would close at the end of Sunday, September 7. I only heard about the announcement today and am shattered, because I would have dropped everything yesterday, taken the cheap bus down to NYC, and visited Astroland for one last time regardless of the cost. I had meant to get to Coney several times this summer but my finances just hadn't been up to it. Now I am in a severe state of self-kicking.

(It is not all totally lost, as the Cyclone and Deno's Wonder Wheel Park are still around, though, for now. But for how long?)

The Albert family owned the park but the land was purchased in 2006 by Thor Equities, the latest Corporate Goon who has come down the line in the grand tradition of Robert Moses and Fred Trump. Moses and Trump had their own ideas what Coney Island should be (Trump hated the parachute jump tower as it interfered with his plans for condominium towers, Moses just hated the common folk having fun) and so it is with Thor. This Corporate Goon wants to turn Coney Island into a Times Square By The Sea, claiming that "retail entertainment" along the lines of giant Best Buys or Gap stores, at the bottom of high-rise condo units, is what passes for amusement these days. Their land acquisitions around the amusement zone so far have not been put to amusement. They got a lot of vacant lots surrounded by plywood walls boldly claiming that this is the "Future of Coney Island." One of the vacant lots is being used as summertime parking for school buses. Some portable carny rides and a large inflatable waterslide were prefunctorily put in, but only operated during "block parties" (the waterslide has been open to the public for an insane upcharge, from what I've heard.)

Astroland's lease went up at the end of last year, but the Albert family got a lease extension for 2008. According to Carol Albert, she closed the park after she couldn't secure negotiations with Thor to obtain a two-year lease to give her employees some measure of job security. According to Thor, Albert just "gave up" on "the future of Coney Island", a brazen charge considering that Thor keeps around empty lots claiming it's the future. According to Albert, her requests to negotiate with Thor weren't even met; they had no meetings at all. There's a lot of accordings-to here and none of it is very pretty.

In the end it doesn't really matter who or what was accorded-to or not, because the end result came a little after 11:00 pm last night. In a ceremony reminiscent of Steeplechase's closing in the 1960s, Carol Albert rounded up the last park patrons and went down the midway, systematically closing each ride down and adding the operators to the procession. The last ride to close was the Astrotower. Norman Blake was there and took pictures. The Astrotower cabin made one final descent... and, "after a dramatic pause", the lights all went out for good.

Good night, Astroland.

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