Possible new life for Astroland

September 9, 2008 5:34:58 PM PDT
Mayor Michael Bloomberg is trying to rescue the historic Astroland amusement park from extinction. "It would be a great shame if the amusements, which have been around for so many years and defined Coney Island and this city as much as anything ... it would be a shame if we lost those," Bloomberg said on Tuesday.

The amusement park by the Brooklyn boardwalk was closed on Sunday - "permanently," said Carol Albert, whose family has owned it for more than four decades.

Albert said she gave up negotiating a two-year lease with Joe Sitt's Thor Equities when the private developer, which owns the land under Astroland, failed to respond to her request for a two-year lease.

Astroland was under threat of closing a year ago, but Thor and Astroland agreed to a one-year lease extension. This year, Albert said she wanted a two-year lease to cover the summers of 2009 and 2010 because her hundreds of employees needed more job security.

For years, Coney Island's future has been the focus of bickering among the developer, the ride operator and city officials.

With two dozen rides on 3 acres, Astroland covers a large part of Coney Island. Albert sold the Astroland acreage to Thor Equities two years ago for $30 million and has said rides such as the Tilt-A-Whirl and the Water Flume would be dismantled and auctioned off when the park closed.

The historic Cyclone, a roller coaster, and the Wonder Wheel, a Ferris wheel, are not affected by Sunday's closure because they are separately owned.

Coney Island fans and community activists have accused the developer and the city of trying to gentrify the seedy neighborhood, where the old rides sit alongside freak show attractions.

Thor had planned to break ground next year on a $1.5 billion complex including high-rise hotels and the city's first new roller coaster since the wooden Cyclone was built 75 years ago.

Bloomberg said: "What we're trying to do is to get Astroland to have another one-year extension of their lease so that we can get the rezoning done and then hopefully come to an agreement with Thor."

Albert did not respond Tuesday to a telephone call for comment on whether she would be willing to accept a one-year lease.

Thor spokesman Stefan Friedman said no negotiations were under way with the city or Albert.

But on Tuesday, the mayor noted that "there are private developers who have their own economic interests and then there's the public that has a broader interest, and we're trying to reconcile property values with what's in the public interest, and hopefully we will come to an agreement."

On the Net:

Astroland: http://www.astroland.com/
Coney Island: http://www.coneyisland.com/