Andy Badalamenti, 60, fought for classic Coney Island rides

Andy Badalamenti, 60, fought for classic Coney Island rides
Photo provided by Tricia Vita

Andy Badalamenti, a beloved Coney Island carny who once lived in an apartment built into the Thunderbolt roller coaster and who fought to save the neighborhood’s historic ride’s, died last Monday after a long battle with cancer.

Badalamenti, 60, was for years the caretaker of the Playland Arcade, the Shore Theater, and rides that stood on Surf Avenue between W. 15th Street and Kensington Walk, where he earned a reputation as a fierce preservationist who battled to save Coney’s honky-tonk charm.

That determination was never clearer then the day in 1977 he stood atop a smoldering Tornado roller coaster at the corner of Stillwell Avenue and the Bowery, which had burned the day before, and screamed “We’re going to fix it!”

But the Tornado was eventually torn down — as was the Thunderbolt, where Badalamenti lived in a ground-floor apartment that served as the inspiration for a scene from Woody Allen’s masterpiece, “Annie Hall.”

That ride, which had been out of service for over a decade, was knocked down by the city under the cover of darkness prior to the opening of the minor league baseball stadium next door because it was decrepit and it marred the views from the stadium.

Badalamenti protested former Guiliani’s demolition of the ride in 2000 — and later on a lawsuit arguing that the destruction had been illegal.

“Never in my years in Coney Island have I met someone with genuine and sincere love just for Coney Island and the rides,” said Dick Zigun, the unofficial mayor of Coney. “Andy had a lot of fun, a lot of adversity, but never once gave up his love affair in Coney Island.”

Badalamenti started his carney career as the D.J. and operator for the now-defunct W. 12th Street Himalaya, a ride that spun in circles while lights flashed and music blast.

Badalamenti went on to operate the Tornado and Bobsled, also on Stillwell at the Bowery.

Later, he took a job caring for police horses at the Brighton Beach stables.

Many friends wrote tributes to Badalamenti on

“We shared many Coney Island moments together,” wrote Charles Denson on the Coney Island History Project website. “He was a good friend for many years and a main character in my books. He left us too soon, but his legacy will live on.”

A Coney Island fixture, Andy Badalamenti operated some of the amusement park’s relics, including the Thunderbolt, Himalaya, and the Tornado.
Photo provided by Michael Rizzotto