Coney Island’s beloved Astroland amusement park closed on Sunday — apparently for good, despite a last-ditch city effort to eke out another year for the 46-year-old carnival.
City officials told The Brooklyn Paper that they tried to negotiate with the area’s main landlord, Thor Equities, but those talks “went nowhere,” said Astroland owner Carol Albert.
The failure of those negotiations means its curtains for the space-age-themed theme park — a fate that was set into motion in 2006 when Albert sold her land to Thor Equities for $30 million. She and her rides remained on site because Thor gave her two one-year leases.
But this year, Thor did not offer Albert an extension by her self-imposed deadline of Thursday, Sept. 4 — so she closed the place down.
The closure set about a mad scene at the amusement park, as huge throngs crowded the park, delaying the schedule 9 pm closing until after midnight.
The lights on each of the park’s 22 rides were turned off one by one with the final darkness descending after the illuminated Astro Tower was lowered to the ground.
“There were a lot of crying children,” Albert said.
Earlier in the day, the Circus Amok troupe used the closing as a leitmotif for a show that hit all the key circus notes: juggling, acrobatics, mime and the exploitation of the underclass.
In addition, Dick Zigun — the self-proclaimed “mayor of Coney Island” and founder of the Coney Island Circus Sideshow — and the showboating Rev. Billy gave last rites to the moribund Astroland, which stands near West 10th Street and Surf Avenue.
The duo also tried Thor Equities’ owner Joe Sitt in a kangaroo court for “this travesty” that allows Astroland to close while Sitt and Mayor Bloomberg fight for control of the tumbledown area.
“[Allowing Astroland to close] shows a total disregard for low-income jobs in our neighborhood,” said Zigun. “Some 500 people work at Astroland and if there is no way — and there is no way — that next year Thor or anyone else could be building, why are we throwing away all those jobs?
“I wish the city had the guts to step up and do something now, but I don’t see a real commitment to the amusement park from the city either,” Zigun added.
Mayor Bloomberg begged to differ. Asked about the Astroland closing at his daily press availability on Tuesday, Hizzoner said that his administration was actively trying to get Astroland “another one-year extension of their lease” because “it would be a great shame if the amusements, which have been around for so many years and defined Coney Island, [were] lost.”
A city official, speaking on background, said that if Sitt did extend the lease for one more year, the city would clear some existing — but unidentified — publicly owned parcel in Coney’s amusement zone for Astroland to return in the summer of 2010.
Of course, the closing of Astroland is just the backdrop for a larger battle between Bloomberg and Thor Equities. Both sides envision a vast, 24-7-365 indoor-outdoor theme park, but quibble over the substantial details of a proposal that is still years from realization.
In either case, Astroland might have to go; neither the Bloomberg plan for a city-owned theme park, nor Thor’s plan for a larger, entertainment, retail, hotel and amusement zone call for the run-down funland to stay.
That didn’t prevent the mayor from taking a swipe at Sitt.
“There are private developers [in Coney Island] who have their own economic interests and then there’s the public that has a broader interest and we’re trying to reconcile property values with what’s in the public interest and hopefully we will come to an agreement,” he said. “It continues to be a difficult negotiation and I think that if everybody can pull together we’ll be successful.”
Thor’s spokesman Stefan Friedman told The Brooklyn Paper that the city had not contacted the developer, though both Kelly and Bloomberg have confirmed that negotiations are ongoing.
— with Gersh Kuntzman