Friday, September 14, 2007

Blasting into history

"I, like so many others, have wonderful memories of Coney Island from Astroland. It's an icon in the community, and it should not be rushed into history," stated Brian Gotlieb.

The outer-space themed amusement park was unveiled in 1962 by Dewey Albert, on the beach that was once billed as the nation's playground. It grew and evolved alongside two other local fixtures, the roller coaster and the hot dog.

Throughout the years, Astroland endured on Coney Island NY, even as the surrounding neighborhoods fell into disrepair. It still operated as the properties made a recent comeback and the Albert's were the last holdouts from those early decades. Last year though, they sold the 3.1 acres that the amusement park sits on to Thor Equities, who have spent more than $100 million to aquire 10 acres of Coney Island property. It has been their aim to develope that land into a year-round $2 billion tourist attraction.

Carole Albert, Dewey's daughter in law had sold the property last November and had been preparing herself for the long good bye that this last year of operation would bring. Her lease on the property runs out this January and this past Labor Day weekend were the final days before closing permanently. Word had come recently though, that possibly she could stay open for 2008, although the two sides have not spoken in a few weeks.

Thor Equities would make no comment as to the actual cost of renewing her lease but Carole stated that her $180,000 rent would jump to $3 million, an amount that she feels she could not afford. Brian Gotlieb, an attorney and former community board chairman, is leading the local protest to keep Astroland open for the 2008 season. Thor had earlier this summer, set aside developement plans that included luxury condominiums and apartments and keeping the park closed for a year Gotlieb feels, will not be good for the community.

Thor had released a statement that said, there would be amusements to be enjoyed by residents and tourists from 2008 to 2010 even if it no longer includes Astroland and its 370 employees. Carole feels that she needs an answer by September 20 2007, in order to make plans for the upcoming year. If she doesn't have a resonable lease renewal, she will begin selling all of her rides in order to leave a "clean" property.

Only the landmarked Cyclone roller coaster and Wonder Wheel will remain on the property, if all the other rides are sold on September 23, as Carole has planned. The Water Flume, Tilt-a-Whirl and the Pirate Ship will all find new homes to make way for whatever Thor Equities has planned for the property.

Whether they do work out a reasonable lease for 2008 or not, the sale of the property means that Astroland will be headed for history and people's memories in the near future. Another victim of high property values and a need for bigger and better amusements for the new generation.

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