As Coney Island's Rides and Pier Disappear, its Rocket Needs a New Home
By Margaret Foster | Online Only | Dec. 30, 2008
Coney Island is being torn apart. The amusement park Astroland closed in September, and its rides have been moved to storage—except for its 70-foot-long silver rocket ride. The rocket, which debuted in 1962, once took riders on a three-minute mock trip to outer space.
Longtime Astroland owners Carol and Jerry Albert, who sold most of their land to New York-based developer Thor Equities last year, donated the rocket to the nonprofit Coney Island History Project and have offered to contribute toward the estimated $15,000 cost for moving the landmark from the top of a building—money the nonprofit doesn't have.
People from car-wash owners to museum curators have contacted the Coney Island History Project about the Astroland Moon Rocket, including an amusement park in Pakistan.
New Year's Day Rally for Coney
The Save Coney Island Coalition has called for a Jan. 1 rally to protest Thor Equities' destruction of Coney Island and New York City's flawed redevelopment plan
WHEN: Thursday, January 1, 2009, 12 Noon
WHERE: on the Boardwalk near West Tenth Street, at the memorial shrine on Boardwalk Gates of Coney Island's closed and dismantled Astroland Park. Bring photos, drawings, letters, poems, flowers to add to the shrine. Download signs/flyers here
"We were kind of wowed by their interest," said the history project's administrative director Tricia Vita in an e-mail. "Our dream placement for the rocket would be in a nonprofit setting where [it] would be preserved and could also be used for educational purposes."
Neither the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, the Brooklyn Museum, the Brooklyn Children's Museum, the New York Hall of Science, nor Floyd Bennet Field in Brooklyn was able to provide a new home for the rocket due to lack of space or logistics, she said.
Charles Denson, director of the Coney Island History Project says his group is currently in "serious negotiations" with a group that will move the rocket to a new Coney location. "It looks like it [might] be staying. It's a survivor, and it'll keep the Astroland name alive. It's a time capsule; everything inside is absolutely preserved."
If the rocket is not moved by Jan. 31, it will become the property of Thor Equities, which now owns most of Coney Island.
Meanwhile, the city has begun to dismantle Coney Island's decrepit fishing pier and boardwalk. This month, workers began ripping out the wood pier and replacing it with concrete slabs.
A Pennsylvania-based salvage company called Olde Good Things has acquired portions of the pier, and is making outdoor furniture from the salvaged Brazilian hardwood. Olde Good Things, with locations in New York City, Los Angeles, and Coral Springs, Fla., hasn't put a price tag on the material yet. "It's like a green project," says Sarah Weiss at the company's warehouse in Scranton, Pa. "We're trying to salvage and preserve a part of New York history."
The landscape of Coney Island has changed radically since September, Denson says. "Watching an amusement park being dismantled is one of the saddest things in the world."
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