Oh good lord. Coney Island’s Luna Park was evacuated late yesterday afternoon, after reports that a nearby ride, the bagel-on-a-stick-shaped AstroTower, was swaying and looked potentially unstable.
Around 3:15 p.m. yesterday, the city’s Office of Emergency Management tweeted that due to a “structural issue,” Surf Avenue had been closed between West 10th and West 12th Streets, and that Luna Park, the Cyclone, and Wonder Wheel Park were also closed.
According to the New York Times, after the 270-foot-tall AstroTower was seen “visibly swaying,” the police cordoned off an area around the ride. Engineers from the Buildings Department were called out to look for “possible structural stability issues,” a spokesperson for the department told the paper. Late last night, Luna Park’s Facebook page announced that the AstroTower had been pronounced “stable and pos[ing] no immediate risk” by the department.
Luna Park allowed that the swaying was “more pronounced than usual,” but that the ride is “still considered stable.” They added that all the closed portions of Surf Avenue have been re-opened, with the exception of the nearby Cyclone and the portion of Luna Park beside it.
“We are committed to the safety and longterm stability of Coney Island,” the announcement added. “The Astrotower is an important part of the Coney Island skyline. Regardless of tomorrow’s announcement, we will continue to monitor the Astrotower and are committed to our work to ensure the long-term stability of the Astrotower and the safety of Coney Island.”
But Tricia Vita at Coney Island blog Amusing the Zillion senses something potentially foul afoot. When the news broke yesterday afternoon, she immediately tweeted, “Skeptical that the Astrotower is ‘unstable.’ It has always swayed. Who called 911 anyway? Why is there always so much drama in Coney Island?”
In a post today, Vita quotes a former operations manager at AstroLand, who says that the angle of the wind can often cause the tower to sway; it’s done so since its construction in 1964 without ever toppling over.
Vita is concerned, too, that the reports of “instability” might give Zamperla, Luna Park’s parent company, ammunition to further neglect or even pull down the ride.
“Ever since Luna Park was built on the Astroland site in April 2010, there’d been talk of Zamperla re-purposing the Tower as signage or possibly restoring it as a ride,” she writes. “Since nothing was done, the 270-foot observation tower got rusty and began to look like a neglected step-child amid the glittering new rides on the skyline.”
Indeed, the AstroTower hasn’t been in use since 2010. The lights outlining the tower were illuminated once last year, but Zamperla has given no indication that they’ll ever reactivate the ride. We don’t yet know whether the closed portions of the park will re-open in time for tomorrow’s July Fourth celebration.