photos by Neil deMause
Take a look at Astroland from a passing Q train, and you might not notice anything out of the ordinary: The Astrotower, the pirate ship, and other landmarks are still there as always. Approach the gates, though, and the first signs of demolition are obvious. The teacup ride sits packed up on a flatbed truck just inside the Surf Avenue gate, while the Break Dance has been partly dismantled. The kiddie park on the Boardwalk end of the lot is almost entirely gone, with work crews this morning beginning to pick apart the caterpillar roller coaster, with its iconic grinning apple tunnel.
Only a week ago, there looked to be possible salvation at hand for the 46-year-old Coney Island institution, as both Coney councilman Domenic Recchia and a spokesperson for developer Joe Sitt’s Thor Equities said that the city has entered serious negotiations to buy Thor’s 10 acres of Coney land – which includes the Astroland site – for upwards of $100 million. But there’s been no further word, official or unofficial, since, and this weekend the shipping containers began getting loaded up at Carol Hill Albert’s amusement park, marking what looked like the denouement of the year-and-change Astroland death watch.
For those looking to cling to a glimmer of hope, it’s still mostly the smaller, more portable rides that are being packed up; the heavy-duty items like the Astrotower and water flume are as yet untouched. Albert, who happened to be walking out of her office as I stopped to take photos, said she hasn’t sold any rides yet, but confirmed she’s had serious talks with an Australian operator who wants to relocate her entire inventory to Queensland (which may sound like a good name for an amusement park in the Rockaways, but is in fact closer to New Guinea). She also said she’s had no word from the city one way or the other about a potential buyout of Thor. “Nobody’s happy about this,” she remarked glumly, before disappearing into her car.
On a brighter note, the 24-hour Dunkin Donuts in the Stillwell Avenue subway terminal is finally open. Unfortunately, the height limit to ride in their teacups is four inches.