Coney Island rocket will be saved

January 28, 2009 5:30:09 PM PST
A 71-foot-long piece of Coney Island history will be saved as a centerpiece of a new amusement park by the Brooklyn boardwalk, city officials announced Wednesday. The owner of the now dismantled Astroland is giving away the Rocket - a virtual-reality ride to the moon that was recently removed from atop a hot-dog stand. The 14,000-pound artifact will be in storage until it eventually returns to the seafront neighborhood.

Robert Lieber, the deputy mayor for economic development, said the Astroland Rocket will be part of a 27-acre, year-round entertainment destination by the boardwalk that is in the works.

"Coney Island is the people's playground and the Astroland Rocket is its symbol of the adventure, discovery and fun that have brought New Yorkers here for years," Lieber said.

The Rocket was donated to the city by Carol Hill Albert and Jerry Albert, whose family owned and operated Astroland from 1962 until its closing last year.

The Rocket will join the Cyclone, the Wonder Wheel and the Parachute Jump as permanent symbols of what Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz called "the Coney Island of the 21st century, a modern mecca of freakishness, fun-loving spirit and Brooklyn charm."

Plans are underway for a complex of high-rise hotels, retail stores, movie theaters, an indoor water park and the city's first new roller coaster since the landmarked, wooden Cyclone was built more than 80 years ago.

The property under Astroland is owned by a developer, Thor Equities, which purchased it in 2006. The Alberts closed the park after failing to reach a lease agreement with Thor, which has its own $1.5 billion development plan for the park.

First, the area must be rezoned for commercial use from its original all-amusement designation - a land-use review process that started earlier this month and is to be completed by summer. The city expects the redevelopment project to provide 25,000 construction jobs and more than 6,000 permanent jobs.

The rocket simulator arrived when Astroland was founded by Carol Albert's late father-in-law, Dewey Albert. Operating through the 1970s, the ride had 26 seats and lifted on vibrating hydraulics to simulate a launch into space.

"It is especially fitting that this Rocket - which was the first to arrive - will be the last item to leave Astroland Park," she said.