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Renee Shervington’s grandson Joshua will be five years old this week and thanks to his mother, grandmother and great-grandmother, he’ll be able to one day tell friends that he was at Astroland Amusement Park.
“It’s all about him having the experience,” Shervington said, “because everybody else did.”
All four generations of Shervington’s family were on hand for Astroland’s purported last day this weekend, and while Joshua brimmed with excitement, his grandmother couldn’t avoid feeling melancholy.
“Our city unfortunately doesn’t want things like this anymore,” she said outside the gates of the park. “You shouldn’t have to pack up the children like this and drive them an hour and a half for them to have entertainment, or for them to enjoy the things that as a kid I had very close to me.”
Coney Island resident Tracy Mittleman stood close by with a bag stuffed full of unredeemed arcade tickets amassed over a whole season at Astroland and thought about the amusement park she’s been visiting for the better part of her life.
“My first ride was the fire truck when I was five years old,” the West 8th Street resident recalled. “Now I’m going to see an empty lot.”
Feelings of disappointment and frustration also hung heavy over the normally festive “Freak Bar” a couple of blocks away at the Coney Island History Museum on Surf Avenue.
There Dick Zigun, Diana Carlin and other members of the Save Coney Island coalition prepared to administer “last rites” to Astroland and to render their final judgment against developer Joe Sitt and Thor Equities.
“Thor is going to hell!” the Reverend Billy of the Church of Stop Shopping roared through a megaphone. “Real estate speculators are taking over our neighborhoods!”
At around 3 p.m., this summer’s “King Neptune” in the annual Mermaid Parade, and his partner “Lady Justice,” escorted the hammer-wielding mighty Thor to the gates of Astroland and put him on “public trial.”
“Thor has murdered Astroland,” Reverend Billy declared.
“Guilty!” The assembled crowd yelled back.
Like fellow Joe Sitt tenant Carol Hill Albert, Carlin says that she, too, has been stymied in her repeated attempts to get a meeting with Thor to discuss the future of her souvenir shop and the other businesses along the boardwalk.
“Where I live on Staten Island, we used to have a kiddie amusement park but they felt it wasn’t economical enough, and there now stands housing,” Renee Shervington said.
“It’s unbelievable,” Shervington’s mother Nellie observed. “They’re going to put up something people can’t afford.”
The park was supposed to close at 9 p.m., but increasing demand to get in kept it open hours longer. When closing time was finally announced at 11 p.m., some folks refused to get off of favorite rides like the Top Spin, and cops were called in to clear the grounds.
New York City Council candidate Brian Gotlieb said, “It felt like you were leaving a funeral.”
Astroland owner Carroll Hill Albert – who hadn’t been seen the whole day – appeared and assembled her park employees for an emotional farewell, slowly walking down the midway as each ride she passed went dark. The Astro Tower was the last to go.
Little Joshua, at least, went home to Staten Island saying that he really was at Astroland Amusement Park.
©2008 Community Newspaper Group
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