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This summer, for the first time in more than 45 years, Carol Hill Albert looked out across West 10th Street and didn’t see the familiar lights of Astroland Amusement Park dancing over Surf Avenue.
The Albert family sold the Coney Island property to developer Joe Sitt and Thor Equities in 2006, and was forced to shut down the “space age” park last year after failing to secure a lease with the new landlord.
“It was really depressing,” Albert told this newspaper. “But it’s water under the bridge. I wanted to stay another season, but it wasn’t happening.”
The Albert family still holds a license to operate the landmark Cyclone roller coaster located just across the street from where Astroland had stood since 1962 - but Albert says that the lamenting associated with Astroland’s demise remained “constant” throughout the summer ‘09.
“Many people said they were sad to see it go,” Albert said. “We heard that a lot. I think Astroland was important to a lot of people when they were young and they wanted to bring their children to see it.”
Sitt’s efforts to replace Astroland with something -- anything -- to keep Coney Island busy while he continued to wrangle with the Bloomberg administration over zoning and the ultimate fate of the old Astroland property ended at the conclusion of the summer with the developer locking out his own replacement carnival over a rent dispute.
“Dreamland” amusement park was briefly reopened for the Labor Day weekend.
Despite all that’s happened, however, Astroland’s return to Coney Island is not out of the realm of possibility.
“Every bolt and every screw from Astroland is in storage with the exception of the water flume which we couldn’t dismantle,” Albert said.
As it works to ink a final deal with Sitt, the city is also mulling over ways to proceed with its controversial plan to reinvent Coney Island.
The International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions will hold its 2009 expo in Las Vegas, Nevada from November 16-20 - and the City of New York is expected to have a significant presence there.
While it searches for a new amusement park operator for a re-imagined Coney Island, the city could also issue a Request For Proposals [RFP] from prospective operators interested in running an interim park.
Construction on the kind of year-round 21-century amusement park city planners envision would take years.
“If the city puts out an RFP- which one would expect them to do if they own the property - I will apply for it,” Albert said.
According to Albert, she is currently holding about 24 Astroland rides in storage at a “big secret place” and would be interested in adding more should Astroland get another crack at Coney Island.
The city has already stepped in to save other Coney Island artifacts like the B&B Carousel and the famed Astroland Rocket, formerly housed atop Gregory and Paul’s food stand on the boardwalk.
It remains to be seen exactly when and where in Coney Island those two attractions might reappear.
Albert was also forced to leave behind the famed Astro Tower when Astroland shut its gates in 2008. The Astro Tower is now the property of Thor Equities.
While foul weather and the loss of Astroland hurtthe Cyclone’s business this summer, Albert says that the 82-year-old thrill ride did better than expected.
“People love the Cyclone and scream as loudly as they ever did,” Albert said.
The Albert family has six more years left on its license to operate the Cyclone.
The roller coaster will reopen on March 28, 2010.
©2009 Community Newspaper Group
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