it's hard for me to tell you how much this saddens me.
Coney Island's Tilt-A-Whirl Has Final Spin After Sale
By Alan Mirabella
Nov. 29 (Bloomberg)
Say goodbye to Coney Island's Astroland Amusement Park.
Brooklyn's famous seaside park, which has offered thrills
to generations of New Yorkers, was bought by a developer and
will close at the end of the 2007 summer season, according to a
statement released yesterday by the sellers, the Albert family.
Thor Equities LLC, a closely held real estate developer
based in New York, is planning a $1.5 billion year-round resort
in Coney Island that will include a 4,000-foot-long (1,219-
meter-long) roller coaster, an indoor water park with a
retractable roof and a multilevel carousel. The idea of
investing in Coney Island came to Thor Chief Executive Officer
Joseph Sitt while he was jogging through his childhood
neighborhood about three years ago.
``As I jogged, I was thinking, `What an opportunity,''' the
native Brooklynite said. ``We're by the ocean. This is gold.
This is where amusements were invented.'' Buying the 3.1-acre
(1.3-hectare) Astroland property will bolster his development
plans, he said in an interview.
Astroland features rides including the Cyclone roller
coaster and the Tilt-A-Whirl, a water flume, bumper cars and
three arcades with games of chance. It has been operated by the
Albert family since it opened in 1962. No price was disclosed
for the transaction. As part of the deal, the Alberts retained
the Astroland business and said in the statement they may re-
open in another location in Coney Island.
``The decision to close Astroland was very difficult,''
said Carol Hill Albert, who owns Astroland with her husband
Jerome. Dewey Albert, Jerome's father, opened the park.
Converting an area as large as Astroland into an all-year
attraction is extremely expensive, and the sale was the only
logical alterative, she said.
The Alberts will continue to operate the landmark Cyclone
roller coaster, which will be 80 years old next year.
Coney Island's beach and amusement parks have attracted millions
of people over more than 100 years. Before Astroland, Steeplechase
Park opened in 1897 with an attraction known as the Steeplechase
Ride, in which visitors rode wooden horses around the Pavilion of
Fun, according to the History of Amusement Parks Web site.
The locale has been featured in several movies, including
Woody Allen's ``Annie Hall.'' In a flashback, Allen's alter-ego,
Alvy Singer, revisits his childhood home under a Coney Island
roller coaster. In October, the Coney Island Film Festival had
its sixth anniversary.
``Coney Island was this magical place,'' New York author
Gay Talese said in an interview. ``It wasn't just a place to get
a hot dog. It had so much open sky. It was a place you could
Talese said he visited Coney Island in the late 1940s when
it had a ``true carnival atmosphere.'' While plans for
development may reinvent the area, there is a risk that it will
become ``unrecognizable from what it once was,'' he said.
Dick Zigun, director of Coney Island USA, a nonprofit group
dedicated to preserving the area's carnival traditions, said
Astroland and the Albert family helped keep Coney Island alive at a
time when many shopkeepers and amusement operators had abandoned it.
``Astroland was a place where not a single light bulb was
burned out, there was never any graffiti and never a crack in
the sidewalk,'' Zigun said.
Lynn Kelly, president of the Coney Island Development
Corp., said that New York City is committed to revitalizing
Coney Island as a ``year-round entertainment district.''
``Astroland and the Albert family have helped define Coney
Island's unique character over the last half-century,'' Brooklyn
Borough President Marty Markowitz said in a statement.
Tim Janus, 29, the world's seventh-ranked competitive eater
and a participant in the last Fourth of July hot dog eating
contests at Nathan's Famous restaurant on the Coney Island
boardwalk, promised a hunger strike in protest.
``To see Astroland going, that's a huge blow,'' Janus said.
``It's got a special place in my heart.''
--With reporting by David M. Levitt, Bob Ivry, Sharon L. Crenson
and Peter S. Green in New York.